Name that element! What element found in meteorites can strengthen steel, power model airplanes, and color glass green? Follow these eight clues to find out.
In its pure form, the mystery element is a silvery white metal. The majority of this element on Earth is found in the planet's core, or center. However, there are deposits closer to Earth's surface. The United States gets half its supply of this element from mines in Canada and Australia. It gets the other half through recycling programs that collected about 119,000 tons of the element in 2007.
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OUT OF THIS WORLD
"Most meteorites contain metal, and the metal always contains some [of the mystery element]," says Roy Clarke, emeritus curator of meteorites at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. The origin of the mystery element in a major Canadian mine is thought to be the result of a meteorite impact that heated up Earth's outer layer, or crust, creating a deep pool of metal-rich magma. As it cooled, the metals sank and formed deposits.
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When you fly a model airplane, you're using the power from rechargeable batteries that contain the mystery element. These special batteries are preferred for the motors in model airplanes because they release their charge faster and at a higher voltage than other rechargeable batteries. This gives the motor more power. During flight, the electric current flows from the anode, or negative terminal, made of cadmium (Cd) to the positive cathode made of the mystery element.
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While clear glass is useful for windows and eyeglasses, sometimes a little color helps spice things up. To tint glass green and blue, early glassmakers used compounds containing the mystery element and cobalt (Co), which is in the same period (row) as the mystery element. Some green and blue glazes for ceramics also contain small amounts of these compounds.
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You can thank this element for turning the oil that makes French fries into the margarine you spread on your toast. To make margarine, vegetable oil and hydrogen are heated together using the mystery element as a catalyst to speed up a chemical reaction. This is called hydrogenation. But don't thank it too much: This process is also responsible for the trans fats that raise levels of "bad" cholesterol in blood, which can lead to heart disease.
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The mystery element exists in stainless-steel pots and pans, cutlery, and kitchen sinks, according to Patrick Whiteway, who works at an institute that researches and promotes the mystery element. "Also, it's in the electrical elements of your kitchen stove," he says. When the mystery element is alloyed, or combined, with steel and chromium (Cr), the result is stainless steel. This is a stronger material that resists rusting better than regular steel.
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Costume jewelry, belt buckles, and blue-jean buttons may be a hazard for the 17 percent of Americans who have a skin allergy to the mystery element, which is a transition metal. "Some people may have itching and a rash. More severe cases can have blisters," says Dr. Joseph Fowler, a dermatologist in Louisville, Kentucky. But he says that these reactions are easy to treat. An allergy to the mystery element is the second-most-common skin allergy, after poison ivy.
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Except for the penny, every coin circulating in the U.S. contains an alloy that is 25 percent of the mystery element and 75 percent copper (Cu), a metal having one more proton than the mystery element. In December 2006, the value of the metal in the coin named after the mystery element surpassed the face value of the coin. However, this past summer, the prices of the metal dropped, making the face value the winner again.
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Anatomy of an Element
??-- Element symbol
x.xxxx--Average atomic mass
ATOMIC NUMBER equals the number of protons (positively charged particles) in an atom's nucleus, or center. Every element contains a different number of protons, and so has a unique atomic number. In a neutral atom, the number of protons and the number of electrons (negatively charged particles) are equal.
ATOMIC MASS equals the number of protons plus the number of neutrons (uncharged particles) found in a single atom of an element. The atom's mass is in its nucleus, which houses both protons and neutrons.
* Some elements are mined, like copper, gold, and zinc. What other elements might be mined?
* Can all elements be mined? How about those with element symbols colored orange in the article on page 167
DID YOU KNOW?
* According to a study by scientists at Brown University, 10 out of 22 cell phones tested contain nickel. For people allergic to nickel, it can lead to a skin rash on the ear, cheek, or fingers. Such skin rashes have become so common that the British Association of Dermatologists has given a name to the condition: mobile phone dermatitis. The researchers recommend that people allergic to nickel who are its the market for a new cell phone use a special test kit to see if a phone contains nickel before purchasing it.
* Nickel is involved in hydrogenation, a process in which liquid oils are made into solid fats by adding hydrogen. This process forms trans fats, which may cause health problems for people who consume them. Trans fats turn up in french fries, cookies, crackers, and even hot-chocolate mix. The FDA estimates that the average American eats 4.7 pounds of trans fats per year.
* In 2006, New York City's Board of Health banned restaurants from serving foods with trans fats in them. (The ban contains some exceptions. For instance, restaurants can serve foods that come in the manufacturer's original packaging even if the food contains trans fats.) The board's reasoning for the ban is that the foods containing trans fats are unhealthy. Should the government be able to tell restaurants what they can and can't serve?
HEALTH: Seventeen percent of Americans have a skin allergy to nickel. Perform research to find answers to the following questions: What types of common items contain nickel? What other types of skin allergies exist? What can a doctor do for patients who have skin allergies? Here's a link to get you started: www.mayoclinic.com/health/nickel-allergy /DS00826/DSECTION=causes.
* Check out more information on nickel from WebElements at: www.webelements.com/nickel
* Interested in finding out about the abundance of various elements in Earth's crust and in the human body? Check out: http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/Hbase/tables /elabund.html
* Visit this site from the Jefferson Lab for more information on nickel: http://education.jlab.org/itselemental/ele028.html
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|Date:||Jan 12, 2009|
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