Archive by category | In your element

One flerovium atom at a time

One flerovium atom at a time

This month, our tour of the elements takes us to a corner of the periodic table that has only been explored recently, and from which only a handful of atoms have been observed. In the case of flerovium, literally one atom at a time. The superheavy element 114 has such a high nuclear charge that several months of nuclear fusion (in which calcium-48 ion beams are directed into targets of plutonium or curium isotopes) are required to produce just one atom — which then decays within seconds.  Read more

Neon behind the signs

Neon behind the signs

A few different versions of the periodic table do exist — as Michelle Francl wrote about here a while ago in a certain chemistry journal  — but we’re all attached to the one that adorned our science class rooms at school: Mendeleev’s version. We generally think that each position is firmly set, but in this issue’s ‘in your element’ article (subscription required) Felice Grandinetti ponders on whether neon should really be at the top of the noble gases group — this would involve helium moving next to hydrogen, at the top of group 2.  Read more

Cerium under the lens

Cerium under the lens

In this month’s ‘in your element’ article (subscription required), Eric Schelter from the University of Pennsylvania draws our attention to cerium, an element that serves a variety of commercial and industrial applications, yet presents chemists with some rather peculiar challenges.  Read more

Enigmatic astatine

When we think of the halogens, F, Cl, Br and I are generally those that spring to mind. Yet there is, of course, another one — astatine. In contrast to the first four, ubiquitous on earth and which serve in numerous reactions, astatine is rare and has remained a bit of a mystery. It is the topic of this month’s ‘in your element’ article (subscription required), written by Scott Wilbur from the Department of Radiation Oncology at the University of Washington.  Read more

Barium bright and heavy

Barium bright and heavy

This month’s ‘in your element’ article (subscription req’d), written by Katharina Fromm from the University of Fribourg, is about barium — an element infamous among those who have ingested it as a ‘barium meal’ for an X-ray of the stomach and bowels.  Read more

The allure of aluminium

The allure of aluminium

In the first issue of the year, Daniel Rabinovich from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte shares with us anecdotes about an element we use on a daily basis (subscription required). But just because aluminium serves to package food and drinks, we shouldn’t overlook its grander history and rich chemistry.  Read more

Plutonium’s new horizons

Plutonium’s new horizons

The piece on plutonium in the December issue (under subscription) marks the end of last year’s writing competition‘s excitement; all winning essays have now appeared in the journal as ‘in your element’ articles — we hope you enjoyed reading them!  Read more

Osmium weighs in

Osmium weighs in

It was while studying another transition metal, platinum, that chemists came across osmium: a black residue would always appear when platinum-containing ores were dissolved in aqua regia. Naturally, they wouldn’t rest until they had found out what exactly that residue was — but the amounts available were too small to allow for its full characterization. It was Smithson Tennant who obtained sufficient quantities (while in a business selling platinum metal), and discovered it to be a mixture of two new elements — one with striking and diverse colours, the the other possessing a strong and distinctive smell. He named them iridium and osmium, after the goddess Iris (represented by a rainbow) and the Greek word for smell (osme), respectively.  Read more