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It’s Elemental- Neodymium September 16, 2017

Posted by makingyourdashcount in Elements.
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* Please remember standard disclaimer.

You know those crazy strong magnets that are hard to unstick once placed on the fridge? Those are made from neodymium.

Number 60 on the periodic table, it is one of 17 rare earth metals and is used in lasers, as a colorant in glass and ceramics, in ceramic capacitors, and in the motors of electric cars- think Tesla. It’s also used to darken welder’s goggles, as a component in didymium glass.

Sintered neodymium iron-boron (NdFeB) magnets are the most powerful commercially available magnets in the world. (Sintering is a procedure by which materials are compacted and formed into a solid mass under crazy amounts of heat and unimaginable pressure.)

Why should you care?

This will “probably” be the material that helps levitate the Hyperloop One Midwest Connect Transport System that will connect Pittsburgh, Columbus and Chicago (30 minutes to Chicago for Garrett Popcorn!) That has to make it a favorite.
And in the other direction, I have great nieces. We can plan play dates. YEA! (Yup, it’s all about me.)

But there is something else. Most rare earth metals, including neodymium, are mined in China.

For a variety of reasons, it is easiest and most economical to mine them there. Although their supply doesn’t quite constitute a monopoly, they control enough of the market that they can use supply as a political weapon. And they have.

That should make you sleep well tonight, or not.

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It’s Elemental- CARBON September 15, 2017

Posted by makingyourdashcount in Elements.
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*Read Disclaimer before continuing.

I am not a chemist. I am not a scientist in any way shape or form. Therefore, do not use this information for anything more than cocktail conversation, because I do not guarantee its veracity. This thread is also posted publicly, where I have had MANY chemist friends make corrections. If you want more information, that may be mory correct, I would check there.

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I lied. I am not doing silicon or germanium today. Sorry for the disappointment.

Instead, last night I visited a friend who is recovering from a near death experience with sepsis, the same condition that overtook Sarah’s little body. He and his wife reminded me that without Carbon, there would be no life, at all.

*Poof* Nothing.

So next time that you have an ache or pain, blame carbon. Or, conversely, rejoice that you exist, because of it. But I digress.

Carbon is the basis for all organic molecules.
That is pretty important.

While only thousands are vital to life processes, there are close to ten million known OTHER carbon molecules. They make up who we are and what we eat and breathe. They make up plants and stars. Carbon is the basis of most of our current fuels, of the steel we use to build.

Activated carbon filters and burns. Without carbon we would not have burnt marshmallows; would life even be worth living? If one could even live, at all.

Carbon has 2 stable isotopes. (Carbon atoms that have differing numbers of neutrons)

  • Carbon-12 is pretty darn special because it serves as the standard measure for atomic mass of all other nuclides; it contains 6 protons, 6 neutrons and 6 electrons. A mole is defined as the number of atoms in 12 grams of Carbon-12. You may not know that Dr. Hydrogen, referenced in an earlier post, is a metrologist. That is someone who cares about things like standard measurements.
  • Carbon-14 is the isotope used for carbon dating. As a radioactive isotope, scientists can determine the age of something organic by its degree of decay, a method that earned Willard Libby a Nobel Prize in Chemistry. (Ok. this is NOT one of them.  But it is interesting.  If it decays, a friend pointed out it is not stable. DUH!)

Carbon. Life, itself.

After-Post by request of my husband, John:

In the next year or two a mole of carbon-12 will no longer be 12 grams. The people who determine such things have changed the definition. (It hasn’t been approved yet, but there is pretty good certainty that it will be.)

Yes, this IS what we talk about on our drives into work.