What’s Fun About…?: Cadmium through Europium

Cadmium (Cd)

  • It is used in blue and green phosphors for color television tubes.
  • Cadmium is so chemically similar to zinc that it’s named after it! (Cadmium from “cadmia,” Latin for “calamine,” which is zinc ore).
  • Yellow oil paint derives its color from cadmium.
  • It is naturally resistant to corrosion.
  • Rechargeable batteries need cadmium to function.
  • When combined with other metals, it lowers their melting points.

Cesium/Caesium (Cs)

  • It is pyrophoric, i.e., it spontaneously combusts in air.
  • It instantly explodes when in contact with water.
  • Cesium has a waxy consistency.
  • Cesium is used in how we count time! The definition of a second is the time it takes a cesium-133 atom to vibrate 9,192,631,770 times between energy levels. They lose one second per 100 million years, so it’s safe to say atomic clocks are pretty accurate!

Calcium (Ca)

  • Calcium isn’t just common in bones and teeth, but also soil, eggshells, cement, and limestone.
  • Calcium ions are necessary for the brain to send signals to the body.
  • About 2 pounds of our body is made of calcium!
  • It’s the fifth most abundant element on Earth.
  • Its salts are used to produce orange colors in fireworks.
  • If calcium levels are too low in the human body, bones will dissolve to give blood the calcium it needs.

Californium (Cf)

  • It is used to treat certain cervical and brain cancers.
  • Californium is useful in finding gold and silver in rocks, oil at the bottom of wells, and detecting explosives.
  • Portable metal detectors use it.
  • It does not occur naturally, but is formed by colliding helium nuclei with curium atoms.

Carbon (C)

  • Diamonds and graphite are both just carbon-the only difference is their molecular structure!
  • About 20% of the weight of living organisms is carbon.
  • Materials researchers focus heavily on carbon, from the 2D material graphene to carbon nanotubes.
  • Diamonds aren’t just pretty, but diamond tips are used for industrial cutting and drilling.
  • Tires containing carbon are strengthened and protected against UV damage.
  • Ionsdaleite, an allotrope of carbon, is 58% stronger than diamond.
  • Carbon has the highest melting point of all elements (3550 oC, or 6420 oF).

Cerium (Ce)

  • It is the most abundant of the rare earth metals.
  • UV lasers with cerium search for ozone and sulfur dioxide in the atmosphere.
  • Cerium oxide (CeO2) is used in internal combustion engine fuel to produce fewer pollutants.
  • Cerium compounds are used to make red and orange phosphors.
  • Scratching the surface will produce a flame, as cerium reacts quickly with oxygen. This makes it useful for flint lighters.

Chlorine (Cl)

  • Not only was it a potent weapon in World War I, but it has some beneficial uses in medicine, water purification, and in salt as sodium chloride (NaCl).
  • Although chlorine gas is 2.5 times denser than air, it is a destructive pollutant that eats away at the ozone layer. This is because the atmosphere is dynamic, and air’s constant motion will bring chlorine compounds to the upper atmosphere.
  • It’s yellowish-green in color.
  • It is used in making rubber and PVC (polyvinyl chloride).

Chromium (Cr)

  • Chromium is what makes stainless steel stainless. It forms chromium oxide on the surface, shielding the steel (iron carbide) from forming rust (iron oxide).
  • It hardens steel.
  • Fittingly named, chromium (from “chroma,” or color in Greek) makes compounds of virtually all colors, including: red, reddish-orange, yellow, green, blue-green, and violet.
  • It makes emeralds green and rubies red.
  • Small amounts of trivalent (with three valence electrons) chromium are needed to process sugar and lipids.
  • Hexavalent (with six valence electrons) chromium and its compounds are carcinogenic and highly toxic.

Cobalt (Co)

  • It’s in our bodies! Vitamin B12 contains cobalt, which is necessary for blood formation and the nervous system.
  • Cobalt compounds make glass blue.
  • Scientists have been able to capture an image of an electron’s spin changing for the first time in a cobalt atom.
  • Do you play guitar? Well the pickups use magnets containing cobalt.
  • Cobalt stays magnetic at higher temperatures than any other magnetic element (up to 1121oC, or 2050oF).

Copernicium (Cn)

  • Only a few atoms have been produced. It was produced by ionic bombardment, but it has also been seen as a product of flerovium decay.
  • It is used for research.
  • Its most stable isotope (copernicium-285), has a half-life of only 30 seconds!

Copper (Cu)

  • Copper is naturally antibacterial. Brass doorknobs are commonly used so bacteria doesn’t spread in public areas.
  • Copper is highly conductive and corrosion resistant.
  • Though humans have mined about 1.1 trillion pounds of copper, there are still another 7 trillion pounds to be mined! Since copper is 100% recyclable, we won’t be using all of it up any time soon.
  • Tools made of copper don’t cause sparks.
  • Brass is copper with zinc; bronze is copper with tin.
  • When exposed to air, it turns from reddish-orange to brown. When water is added to the mix, it turns green.
  • Our bodies need it to survive.

Curium (Cm)

  • It accumulates in bones and stops the formation of red bloods cells.
  • It is highly radioactive.
  • Curium glows purple in the dark (click “purple” for image credit).
  • It was used to measure elements in rocks and soil on Mars.

Darmstadtium (Ds)

  • It has a half-life of about a quarter of a millisecond (270 microseconds).
  • Only a few atoms have been produced, so not much is known about it.

Dubnium (Db)

  • Because of its place on the periodic table, it is expected to behave like the transition metals. It would be most similar to tantalum.
  • Not much else is known about it since only few atoms have been produced.

Dysprosium (Dy)

  • It can be cut with a knife.
  • A dysprosium oxide nickel cement aids in cooling nuclear reactor rods.
  • Laser materials are produced with dysprosium and various rare earth elements.
  • It is used to produce fuel injectors.

Einsteinium (Es)

  • It glows blue in the dark, due to its high radioactivity.
  • When the first hydrogen bomb test was executed, einsteinium was discovered for the first time in the debris.
  • Pure einsteinium is difficult to study due to its short half-life, so not much is known.

Erbium (Er)

  • Erbium oxide makes glass pink.
  • It can add a pink color to cubic zirconia.
  • Lasers use it.
  • Erbium is combined with vanadium to make it softer and more malleable.
  • On its own, it’s slightly toxic; in compounds, it may help boost metabolism.

Europium (Eu)

  • Of the rare earth metals, europium is the most reactive.
  • Computer monitors use it for blue, red, and white colors.
  • It is used in bank notes to distinguish between genuine and counterfeit notes.
  • Some energy-efficient light bulbs use europium.
  • It is used to form laser material.
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