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Steel vs. Copper: What's the Difference?

Edited by Harlon Moss || By Janet White || Published on November 23, 2023
Steel is a hard, strong alloy of iron with carbon and other elements, while copper is a reddish-brown, highly conductive metal used in electrical components and pipes.

Key Differences

Steel, an alloy primarily made of iron and carbon, is known for its strength and durability. Copper, however a pure element, is notable for its excellent electrical and thermal conductivity.
Steel is widely used in construction, automotive, and tool-making industries due to its strength and versatility. While, copper with its superior conductivity, is essential in electrical wiring, electronics, and plumbing.
While steel is strong, it is susceptible to corrosion unless treated or alloyed with other elements like chromium. Meanwhile, copper resists corrosion better and develops a green patina over time without losing its properties.
Steel typically has a shiny, silvery-grey appearance and can be polished to a high shine. On the other hand, copper has a distinctive reddish-brown color and is used for its aesthetic appeal in architecture and art.
Generally, steel is less expensive and more widely available than copper, which is more costly due to its electrical applications and demand in various industries.

Comparison Chart


Alloy of iron and carbon
Pure element

Main Uses

Construction, tools, vehicles
Electrical wiring, plumbing

Corrosion Resistance

Susceptible but can be treated
Naturally corrosion-resistant


Silvery-grey, can be polished
Reddish-brown, develops a patina

Cost and Availability

Generally less expensive
More expensive, high demand

Steel and Copper Definitions


A strong, hard alloy of iron with carbon.
The bridge was constructed with reinforced steel beams.


A metal used extensively in plumbing and heating systems.
The plumber fitted the house with copper pipes.


An alloy used for making tools and machinery.
He preferred steel tools for their durability.


A reddish-brown metal known for its electrical conductivity.
Copper wiring is standard in most electronic devices.


A symbol of strength and resilience.
Her will was as strong as steel.


An element that forms a green patina when oxidized.
The copper roof of the old building had turned green with age.


A material widely used in construction for its strength.
Steel girders are essential in skyscraper frameworks.


A malleable and ductile element with high thermal conductivity.
Copper is used in heat exchangers and radiators.


A metal used in various forms for structural and manufacturing purposes.
The factory produced steel for automotive parts.


A material valued in coinage and decorative arts.
Ancient civilizations used copper for their coins.


A generally hard, strong, durable, malleable alloy of iron and carbon, usually containing between 0.2 and 1.5 percent carbon, often with other constituents such as manganese, chromium, nickel, molybdenum, copper, tungsten, cobalt, or silicon, depending on the desired alloy properties, and widely used as a structural material.


Symbol Cu A ductile, malleable, reddish-brown metallic element that is an excellent conductor of heat and electricity and is widely used for electrical wiring, water piping, and corrosion-resistant parts, either pure or in alloys such as brass and bronze. Atomic number 29; atomic weight 63.546; melting point 1,085°C; boiling point 2,562°C; specific gravity 8.96; valence 1, 2. See Periodic Table.


Something, such as a sword, that is made of steel.


A coin, usually of small denomination, made of copper or a copper alloy.


A quality suggestive of this alloy, especially a hard, unflinching character.


Chiefly British A large cooking pot made of copper or often of iron.


Is steel magnetic?

Most steels are magnetic, especially those with high iron content.

What is steel used for?

Steel is used in construction, automotive industries, manufacturing tools, and appliances due to its strength and durability.

What is stainless steel?

Stainless steel is an alloy with chromium, which resists corrosion and staining.

Can steel rust?

Yes, steel can rust when exposed to moisture and oxygen, unless it's stainless steel.

How is steel recycled?

Steel is recycled by melting scrap steel and reforming it into new products.

What are the types of steel?

Common types include carbon steel, alloy steel, stainless steel, and tool steel, each with unique properties.

Why is steel important?

Steel is vital due to its strength, durability, and versatility in various industries.

Is steel environmentally friendly?

Steel is highly recyclable, reducing its environmental impact, but its production can be energy-intensive.

How is steel made?

Steel is made by combining iron with carbon and other elements, then processing it through methods like smelting.

Where is copper found?

Copper is extracted from ore deposits in the Earth's crust, and also recycled from scrap.

What are the uses of copper?

Copper is used in electrical wiring, plumbing, roofing, and making coins.

What is steel?

Steel is an alloy made primarily of iron and carbon, often with other elements to enhance specific properties.

What is copper?

Copper is a reddish-brown metal known for its high electrical and thermal conductivity.

Is copper toxic?

Copper is essential in small amounts, but high doses can be toxic.

Can copper rust?

Copper doesn't rust but can tarnish, forming a green patina over time.

How is copper recycled?

Copper is recycled by melting scrap copper and casting it into new products.

What are copper's key properties?

Key properties include high conductivity, corrosion resistance, and malleability.

How is copper alloyed?

Copper is often alloyed with other metals like zinc (to make brass) or tin (to make bronze).

Why is copper valuable?

Its electrical and thermal conductivity and recyclability make it valuable in various industries.

What is the difference between copper and bronze?

Bronze is an alloy of copper and tin, while copper is a pure element.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

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