What’s Fun About…?: Actinium through Bromine

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Actinium (Ac)

  • Actinium glows blue in the dark.
  • An isotope of actinium is being researched for potential chemotherapy treatments.
  • Ironically, if ingested, it could also cause cancer (it is radioactive, after all!).
  • Due to its high production of neutrons, it is used in research.

Aluminum (Al)

  • It is the third most abundant element on Earth (after oxygen and silicon)
  • On its own, it’s pretty useless (and very rare), but in compounds, it’s the most used metal in the world (without iron in it).
  • It was once more expensive than gold or silver.
  • The spelling “aluminum” is fairly exclusive to the US-everywhere else calls it “aluminium,” as that was how its discoverer named it.
  • It doesn’t rust, but forms a transparent oxide (called corundum) that is one of the hardest known substances in existence.

Americium (Am)

  • It was made (and first discovered) as a by-product of the Manhattan Project.
  • Smoke detectors use it.

Antimony (Sb)

  • Lead antimony compounds are used in bullets.
  • Batteries, flame-proof materials, and glass use it.
  • The ancient Egyptians even used a compound of antimony for mascara.
  • It is used in electronics.

Argon (Ar)

  • It gives a sky blue glow when a current passes through it.
  • Used in nearly every neon light.
  • It is the third most prevalent gas in the atmosphere.
  • It displaces oxygen, making it useful in preserving documents and helping incandescent bulb filaments last longer (by keeping them from oxidizing).

Arsenic (As)

  • Oxidized arsenic smells like garlic.
  • It is used as a pesticide.
  • Though arsenic is toxic, it can be used for cancer treatment (specifically, acute promyelocytic leukemia).

Astatine (At)

  • It is hypothesized that less than an ounce exists worldwide.
  • Astatine is the rarest naturally occurring element on Earth.
  • It decays so quickly, that it cannot be seen with the naked eye (as it would appear to vanish!).
  • It has a half-life of 8.3 hours.

Barium (Ba)

  • Some barium compounds give off a green flame.
  • Breathing barium dust can damage the lungs.
  • It is commonly used in vacuum tubes.
  • Used to increase contrast in the digestive system for x-ray imaging.

Berkelium (Bk)

  • It tends to accumulate in the skeletal system, as with other actinide elements.
  • Berkelium (named after Berkeley, California) is produced from Americium.
  • It’s used only for research.

Beryllium (Be)

  • Beryllium was once called glucine due to the fact that its salts taste sweet.
  • Cell phones are partly made with beryllium.
  • It is stronger than steel.
  • It is one of the lightest elements.
  • Beryllium melts at about 2,350 °F (about 1290 °C).
  • Tools are made with beryllium to prevent sparking.

Bismuth (Bi)

  • Pepto-Bismol is 57% bismuth.
  • Its radioactivity is so small it is completely negligible.
  • It is the heaviest stable (non-radioactive) element.
  • Its half-life is 1.9 x 1019 years, the longest non-theorized half-life of any other element.

Bohrium (Bh)

  • It’s named after Niels Bohr.
  • There isn’t much information on it due to its short half-life (the most stable isotope’s half-life is about 61 seconds).

Boron (B)

  • It’s the main ingredient in oobleck.
  • A common compound with boron is borax.
  • Boron is necessary in plant growth.
  • It burns bright green.
  • It’s added to glass to make it stronger against thermal shock.
  • It has a Mohs hardness of 9.5 (compare to diamond with a hardness of 10).

Bromine (Br)

  • It is the only nonmetal to be a liquid at room temperature (and the only liquid element at room temperature besides mercury!).
  • Flame retardant materials use bromine.
  • Our bodies are 0.0004% bromine.
  • It is used in pesticides.
  • Citrus-flavored sodas contain bromine as brominated vegetable oil.

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