WITHOUT THEM, WE WOULD BE LOST
Sodium, Magnesium, and Aluminum are elements that we use everyday, sometimes without even realizing it. We’ll start the second part of our series exploring these three metals,their properties, and their common uses in everyday life.
Sodium(Na) is a chemical element, taking its abbreviation from the Latin word Natrium, and has an atomic number of 11. It is a soft, silvery white, extremely reactive alkali metal. Its pure form doesn’t exist naturally, but can be prepared from several other compounds.
It is the sixth most abundant element in the Earth’s crust, and exists in minerals, such as sodolite and rock salt. Many salts are water soluble, which means they dissolve in water. Sodium melts at 208° F, and boils at 1622° F. In its natural form, it is flammable when placed in water. Sodium hydroxide (lye) is used for soap making, and sodium chloride is used as a de-icing agent and a food nutrient (table salt.)
Magnesium is also a common element, is a shiny gray solid, and also an alkaline earth metal. It has an atomic number of 12, and is the ninth most abundant element in the universe. It is synthesized in large, aging stars that expand outward to be recycled into new star systems. It is the 4th most common element on Earth, and make up to 13% of the planet’s mass, and a large fraction of the mantle. It also only occurs in compounds.
The chief use is in an alloy agent to make aluminum-magnesium alloys, creating lightness and strength. It is also used medicinally in laxatives, antacids, and to stabilize abnormal nerve excitation or blood vessel spasms.
Aluminum is a member of the boron group with an atomic number of 13, and is considered a post transition metal. It is the third most abundant element in the universe, and the most abundant in the Earth’s crust, making up to 8% of its weight. It is found in over 270 different minerals, and has a low density to resist corrosion. It has a melting point of 1221° F, and a boiling point of 4478° F, and is an excellent reflector of medium and far infrared radiation. It is also a good thermal and electrical conductor.
Aluminum metal alloys are vital to the aerospace and automobile industries. The most useful compounds are oxides and sulphates. It is used in car engine blocks, and used everyday to wrap food in the form of foil.
Although too much of these elements can be destructive to our systems, a certain amount is essential. Without salt, we wouldn’t be able to sweat, and we could die. Magnesium regulates our digestive systems. Aluminum, although in our bodies, is the only one found not to be that essential.
Tomorrow, we’ll look at some more common elements that are used everyday Silicon, Phosphorus, and Sulphur. Until then, here are the links:
WITHOUT THEM WE WOULDN’T HAVE THE COMPUTER AGE, GLOW IN THE DARK, OR GUNPOWDER
If it weren’t for the three next elements, Silicon, Phosphorus, and Sulphur, we wouldn’t have half of the devices or products that we have today. They are also vital elements of the universe and Earth itself.
Silicon is a non transitional metal with an atomic number of 14. It’s named from the Latin word “silex”, meaning hard stone or flint. It is the eighth most common element in the universe by mass, but very rarely occurs as a pure free element in nature. Over 90% of the Earth’s crust is composed of silicate minerals, making it the second most abundant element in the Earth’s crust.
It is used as Silica for cement, mortar, and stucco, in porcelain, and in semi-conductors and integrated circuits in computers. It is also used as a sealant and adhesive, in plastics and rubber, and used to be a gel in breast implants.
Phosphorus is a reactive chemical and a non-metal with an atomic number of 15. It exists in two forms, white and red, is highly reactive, and never found as a free element on Earth. It emits a glowing property when exposed to Oxygen. It is essential for life, for it is found as a component of DNA and RNA, and phospholipids, which form all cell membranes.
It is used in pesticides, steel production, as a water softener and in laundry detergents, and as Phosphoric acid in soft drinks. It is also one of the elements that causes scorpions to glow under ultraviolent light, and in black light pictures and glow in the dark plastic toys.
Sulphur is another reactive element with an atomic number of 16, and is an abundant, multivalent non-metal. In its pure form it is a bright yellow crystalline solid. It occurs naturally as a pure element, as well as in sulfate minerals.
In ancient times, it was used in India, China, and Eygpyt. Fumes from burning sulphur were used as fumigants and medicinal mixtures. The Chinese were the first to combine it with other compounds to form gunpowder. The largest commercial use is in fertilizers. Hydrogen sulfide is a byproduct produced by living organisms, forming a gas that has the smell of rotten eggs. Organically bonded Sulphur is a component of all proteins as amino acids. Active volcanoes, such as those on Jupiter’s moon, Io, produce sulphur which give it it’s yellow appearance.
In my latest novel, Return To Doomsday, due out in September 2015, Jeff Walker uses kiwis to make simple explosives with gunpowder, in much the same way as the Chinese did.
Tomorrow, we’ll look at three more commonly used elements on the list; Chlorine, Argon and Potassium. Until then, here are today’s links:
EVERYBODY IN THE POOL!
Chlorine is common element that is used to sanitize swimming pools, and in cleaning products, such as bleach and disinfectants. In high concentration, however, it is a poisonous gas, and one of the many that causes depletion of the ozone.
It has atomic number of 17, belongs to the halogen group, and the second lightest in the group, following Fluorine. It is a yellow-green gas, and is a strong oxidizing agent. In its free state, it is rare on Earth, and the most common compound is in the form of Sodium Chloride(table salt). It has been around since ancient times. and is the second most abundant halogen on Earth, and the 21st most abundant element in its crust.
Argon is the third most common gas in the atmosphere, and nearly all of the gas is derived from the decay of potassium-40 in the Earth’s crust. It has an atomic number of 18, and is derived from the Greek word apyov, meaning “lazy” or “inactive.” It is mostly used as an inert shielding gas in welding and other high temperature industrial processes, such as graphite electric furnaces to prevent the graphite from burning.
It is also used in incandescent and fluorescent lighting. Argon used as a laser emits a distinctive blue green glow. It is deadly to humans, due to its weight, which is heavier than air, and can cause the lungs to collapse from lack of oxygen.
Potassium has the symbol of K(derived from the Neo-Latin Kalium), an atomic number of 19, and is an alkali metal. It is a silvery white color that rapidly oxidizes in air, and is very reactive in water, igniting into a lilac colored flame. In nature, it only occurs in ionic salts, such as seawater. Some uses are soaps, fertilizers, and dietary salt(potassium iodide).
Potassium ions are necessary for the function of all living cells, and help with nerve transmission. Lack of it can cause problems such as anemia and kidney disease. Fresh fruits and vegetables are a good source of potassium.
Tomorrow, we’ll look at some more elements; one extremely important, one not so important, and one the hardest substance used for spacecrafts. Until then, here are today’s links:
MOM ALWAYS SAID DRINK YOUR MILK!
Calcium is essential for living organisms, in the use of cell physiology, and as a major material used in mineralization of bone, teeth, and shells. Milk is an excellent source of Calcium, as well as supplements. Without it, our bones would be brittle and weak.
With an atomic number of 20, it is a soft, gray alkaline earth metal, and the 5th most abundant in the Earth’s crust. Free calcium is too reactive to occur in nature, and is usually combined with other minerals or elements. It is produced in the explosions at the end of life of massive stars.
It also provides an important link between tectonics, climate, and the carbon cycle. It helps to create new rocks, in the form of limestone. It can be used also as a reducing agent in the extraction of other metals, as a deoxidizer, in cements and mortars, and in the making of cheese.
Scandium is a silvery white metallic d-block element, and has an atomic number of 21. It is a very rare element, and only three mines produce it in the world in the Ukraine, China, and Russia. Its properties are similar to Aluminum, and develops a yellowish or pinkish color when oxidized by air. It is susceptible to weathering, and dissolves slowly in most dilute acids. It is slightly radioactive, with a half life of 83.8 days. It is the 50th most common element on Earth, and the 23rd most common in the sun.
It is primarily used in the strengthening of aluminum alloys and some sports equipment, such as baseball bats, bicycle frames, lacrosse sticks, and revolver parts.
Titanium is a transition metal with a silver color, low density, and high strength. It is highly resistant to corrosion in sea water and chlorine. With a high melting point of 3000° F, it can be used as an alloy in iron, aluminum, and vanadium to produce strong, lightweight alloys for the aerospace, military, and automotive industries. It can also be used for orthopedic implants, dental and endodontic instruments, sporting goods, jewelry, mobile phones, and drill bits.
Titanium is one of the hardest substances known to mankind, and perfect for space travel, due to its weight. Less weight means less drag on liftoff, and the craft can travel much faster to escape the Earth’s gravity.
We’ll be back next week with some more transition metals, Vanadium, Chromium, and Maganese. Have a great weekend, and until then, here are today’s links: