This blog is my attempt to reconnect with the world of chemistry. I have a PhD in Inorganic Chemistry and make a living doing research for a large company in Michigan. As times have changed, that company has changed its focus and I no longer have as much chance to do the basic, fundamental research which I most enjoy. Through this blog, I am hoping to recapture the magic which I felt during my graduate (and undergraduate) days in college. Expect topics on chemistry and alchemy along with some non-chemistry related items which I think might be interesting.

"The chymists are a strange class of mortals, impelled by an almost insane impulse to seek their pleasure among smoke and vapour, soot and flame, poisons and poverty; yet among all these evils I seem to live so sweetly that may I die if I would change places with the Persian King."

Johann Joachim Becher (phlogistonist)
Acta Laboratorii Chymica Monacensis, seu Physica Subterranea, (1669).

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Disappearing Elements? - Part II

I’d love to say it’s great to be back home, but I can’t do it with a straight face. Although our vacation only consisted of driving to the other side of the state and staying in Saugatuck (near Lake Michigan) for a few days, it was one of the most relaxing few days I’ve ever spent. Going back to work on Monday was definitely a challenge. Diligent chemist that I am, however, I made sure to practice my chemical techniques throughout the vacation. Examples would include:

1. Oxidizing a fair bit of ethanol with ADH (alcohol dehydrogenase). (Note to self -- consuming ice cream after a bottle of wine is no longer recommended).

2. Altering a large number of my DNA molecules via UV radiation.

3. Witnessing many colorful pyrotechnic explosions. Unfortunately, I’ve noticed that I spend more time trying to guess which elements are being used to generate the colors than I do just ooohing and aaahing like everyone else. At least I’m not trying to make my own fireworks (anymore) like this guy.

So it’s hard enough to get back into the work routine, but now I read over at Practical Transmutations that we may be running out of certain elements. I’ve written about this before, but it seems that the situation is more dire than I originally thought. Apparently, a German chemist has estimated when our supply of certain metals is going to be exhausted. This is not good news for some inorganic chemists. For example, becoming an expert on gallium and indium may not be a good career choice if you plan on working more than 10 years. And as if we aren’t using indium up quickly enough, we now have marketers promoting the use of indium as a promoter of good health. As far as I know, there are no studies demonstrating its efficacy in this area -- only its toxicity. Of course, they used to use arsenic for health reasons too, so who knows?

Anyway, this is not a good way to begin the work week. Stop using up our elements, you swine!


Ψ*Ψ said...

Only a decade left for indium? That's sobering. Hopefully we'll see some good ITO replacements in the near future...else, the display industry is screwed.

David Bradley said...

Nitrogen trifluoride is going to do for the industry before then isn't it. Headlines screaming 17000 times as potent a greenhouse gas as CO2