Gold was valued before money existed. A jewelry maker discusses the element and the ancient techniques she employs. A scientist uses an electron microscope to study its individual atoms; they form small clusters, but do not combine with other chemicals.
Creating Elements (02:38)
In a star's core, extreme temperatures forge elements through fusion; once its energy is depleted, it explodes; small, dense neutron stars form as a result, often in pairs. Scientists theorize when binary stars collide, fusion occurs on a massive scale and creates heavy elements. Whether present during solar system formation or delivered by asteroids, most Earthly metals originated in space.
Gold Technology (02:17)
Hubble 2.0 relies on two ounces of gold for the power to detect infrared light. Watch as a mirror and an infrared camera are used to demonstrate why the James Webb telescope's mirrors are covered in gold.
Watch as Malachite is burned to extract Cu; smelting allowed early humans to shape and use the element for tools, vessels, and surgical equipment. Ancient Egyptians used it as a disinfectant, and modern medicinal applications are being researched; watch an experiment that shows copper killing a superbug. The metal is abundant, flexible and conducts electricity; electrons move easily through its well-ordered atoms.
Smelted tin and copper make bronze; the large tin atoms restrict movement and create a stronger metal suitable for weapons manufacture. The alloy revolutionized warfare; an expert in ancient relic preservation discusses the discovery and qualities of the Sword of Goujian. Gigantic bells made from bronze are used by Buddhist temples in South Korea; the elastic atomic properties generate the ringing sound.
Freeing iron from stone requires great heat; a bloomery uses oxygen pumps to achieve the necessary temperatures. The metal was commonly used for tools and weapons. Slag left behind from smelting weakens metals; hammering and reheating it with carbon creates steel; see a bend test performed on steel and wrought iron from the Eiffel Tower.
Steel has greatly influenced industrialization and construction; the structure of Beijing National Stadium is explained by an engineer; two types of the metal provide flexibility and strength. Millau Viaduct is the tallest bridge in the world, made of steel and niobium. Different additives create different alloys; see a lab demonstration of carbon from garbage combined with iron to form steel.
Aluminum and Metal Foam (05:21)
Aluminum has 14 electrons, protons, and neutrons, making it relatively lightweight and ideal for aeronautics. See the laboratory process of new materials being created from metal and rubber; the metal foam retains strength while changing shape; projected applications include submergible planes and refigurable tools.
Graphene is the strongest known material; it is pure carbon, one atom thick and flexible. Its potential applications include cell medicine, environmental monitoring and structural engineering. Metals have revolutionized life on earth.
Credits: Metals (00:56)
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