Chemistry KS3/4: Extracting copper from rock

Students do a practical science experiment extracting copper from a piece of malachite in a lab.

With the help of Dr Peter Wothers at the University of Cambridge, they explore this ancient alchemy in the lab going through the following process:

Use a simple circuit to explore the conductive properties of metals;

Extract carbon dioxide from the malachite by heating to create copper oxide;

Test for the presence of the carbon dioxide in a limewater solution;

Pass hydrogen over the copper oxide to remove the remaining oxygen; and finally

Take a conductivity test to prove the presence of copper.

Teacher Notes

Students could be taught or research the use of metals by mankind.

This work has large overlaps with history.

Students could begin by purifying copper and iron from rock.

Then move on to the formation of alloys and in particular steel.

Throughout, the properties of the metals or metal alloys they are learning about should be linked to their uses.

During this process they could review the properties of metals and non-metals.

Curriculum Notes

This clip will be relevant for teaching Chemistry and Physics and this topic appears in OCR, Edexcel, AQA, WJEC KS3, KS4 and GCSE in England and Wales.