Copper nanoparticles embedded in carbon composites were prepared via spray pyrolysis by adjusting the polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP) to copper nitrate mass ratio. When the equal amount of two precursors was mixed and spray pyrolyzed, copper nanoparticles with sizes in the range 30-50 nm were incorporated into the carbon composites arising from PVP. X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy demonstrated that the copper nanoparticles exhibit oxidation resistance. In addition, the effects of carbon on the surface plasmon bands were investigated. This synthetic process is simple and environmentally friendly and reduces the problems associated with their oxidation through one-step passivation. (C) 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.