Entirely Useless Information about Materials


Here is some quite unnecessary knowledge about materials science. Best is to stop reading here. Or is it probably not useless? 


Producing new steel from recycled scrap steel requires only about a quarter of energy required to produce it from iron ore. 


Producing aluminium from recycled scrap aluminium requires 95% less energy than aluminium produced from ores.


Rubidium is named after the Latin word for "red," and it produces a thick brick red flame. It is so highly reactive to water and air that it must be stored in oil for safety reasons. 


Steels can be easily separated from other materials in scrap by using large magnets.


Caesium is the material most often used to make atomic clocks. They are considered the most accurate timekeeping devices. 


There are 38 transition metals, all with similar properties; they are hard and have high melting and boiling points. They are ductile, malleable with high electrical and heat conductivity. They have positively charged forms or stable oxidation states which allow them to form many different compounds. They also have low ionization energies.


Pt, Pd, Rh and their alloys are widely used catalysts such as vehicle exhausts. A rich solution “washed” onto a ceramic substrate can leave a catalytic surface. The surface can also be a robust construction of woven or knit wire that provides a large surface for chemical production. Pt-based catalysts have been used for nitric acid production for more than 100 years.


When you throw away an aluminum can you are wasting the equivalent amount of energy of filling up that same can with gasoline and pouring it on the ground.


Fe-Ni type stainless steels fall from sky in the form of meteorites. They have been used in arctic regions by inuit to fabricate tools and weapons.


Emperor Napoleon III's most important guests were given aluminum cutlery, while those less worthy dined with silver. Although aluminum is the third most abundant element and the most abundant metal in the Earth's crust, it was at that time very difficult to be reduced from its oxide. The costs to refine it made aluminum more valuable than gold. The first aluminum bars were exhibited at the World Expo of 1855.


The dislocation line length in one cubic meter of heavily cold deformed metal can get as high as 1 light year.


Titanium is a poor electrical conductor. Taking the conductivity of copper as 100%, titanium has a conductivity of only 3.1%. Stainless steel has 3.5% and aluminum 30%.


George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were good coppersmiths


In the battle of Kadesh (1274 BC) an iron age empire (Hittite) was fighting against a bronze age empire (Egypt).



Plutonium has under ambient pressure six allotropes.


Most commercially relevant heavy metals (such as gold, cobalt, iron, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, osmium, palladium, platinum, rhenium, rhodium, ruthenium, tungsten etc) that are mined from Earth's crust, came originally from asteroid bombardement that hit Earth after the crust had cooled. Although asteroids and Earth agglomerated from the same materials, Earth's stronger gravity dragged all heavy siderophilic (iron-loving) elements into its core during its molten youth more than 4 billion years ago. This left the crust depleted of such elements until asteroid impacts re-infused the depleted crust with metals. Also, some flow from core to surface enriched the crust in these elements.


Francium is the most reactive of all metals.


The Statue of Liberty is made of steel ! The creator of the Statue of Liberty, Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi, thought well beyond the image of what would be the world's tallest monument. He considered such practical matters as how to support 100 tons of copper plate and how to make the 151-ft-tall statue able to withstand the strong winds of New York Bay. For the solution to these problems he turned to Gustave Eiffel, the engineer famous for his innovative bridge designs who would subsequently build the Eiffel Tower. Eiffel anticipated skyscraper construction when he designed the Statue of Liberty's supporting frame made of steel.


Beryllium (E=287 GPa) is nearly 40% stiffer than steel (E=210 GPa).

The Titanic did not sink because the steel plates failed but because the rivets failed.


Iron is the most stable element in the universe: Fusion of two nuclei with lower masses than iron (which has the largest binding energy per nucleon) releases energy, while fusion of nuclei heavier than iron absorbs energy. The opposite is true for nuclear fission. This means that fusion generally occurs for elements lighter than iron and likewise fission occurs only for elements heavier than iron. 


The word 'metal' stems from the Greek term 'metallon' which means to mine, excavate or extract from the soil.


3/4 of all elements in the periodic table are metals.


Pharao Tutankhamun's iron dagger blade closely correlates with meteoric composition, including homogeneity. Originally discovered in 1925 in Tutankhamun's tomb (14th C. BCE) by Howard Carter, an archaeologist, the iron dagger was believed to be of meteorite origin. However, until 2016 this material had remained untested. 


Peter Durand invented the tin can in 1810 in England after the conservation principle was first discovered by the French Nicolas Appert. In 1813, John Hall and Bryan Dorkin opened the first canning factory in England. Only 1858 the can opener was invented by the American Ezra J. Warner.


Copper has very powerful anti-microbial properties. For example, a stainless steel sink will contain germs for two weeks while a copper sink will be germ-free in two hours. 


The materials used for cage diving with sharks do not withstand the attack of a great white or Tiger shark.


Steel is the main material used in delivering renewable energy – solar, tidal and wind. It contains also the hightest fraction of recycled material of all structural materials.


Aluminum is the most abundant metal in the Earth's crust, the most abundant element in the entire Earth is iron.


Aerogels are used in the spaceship 'stardust' on its travel to comet wild 2 as interstellar dust collectors.


Considering steel’s position as the key product supplier to industries such as automotive, construction, transport, power and machine goods, and using a multiplier of 25:1, the steel industry is at the source of employment for more than 50 million people.


Tantalum was first discovered by Anders G. Ekeberg in 1802 in Sweden, in the minerals tantalite and yttrotantalite. In 1809 the well-known English chemist Willian Wollaston claimed there had been no discovery and there was no new element. Wollaston stated that Ekeberg’s new element was actually niobium, which had also been discovered in 1802. The scientific community came to believe Wollaston was right and that Ekeberg’s claim for a new element had been a mistake. Tantalum and niobium are in fact hard to separate from one another, which led to Wollaston’s error. Only in 1846 German mineralogist Heinrich Rose finally proved beyond doubt that tantalum and niobium were different elements. The case shows how bad reviewers can set back science.


Metal corrosion destroys 3-4% of the gross domestic product in developed countries each year.


A glue bond of the size of a 2 Euro coin can hold a ton. It contains cyanoacrylate as main ingredient.


The first implant material in mythology was ivory: the greek gods used it for the missing shoulder bone of Tantalos' son pelops.


The name 'copper' stems form the antique name of the island Cyprus ('cuprum') where massive copper mining was conducted in ancient times.

The biggest gold nugget that has ever been found weighed approximately 90 kilogram and was unearthed in Australia.


Manganese compounds have been used since ancient times. Cave paintings were made 16,000 years ago with manganese dioxide.


The historical international prototype metre (meter) bar was made of an alloy of platinum (90wt%) and iridium (10wt%). It was the standard from 1889 to 1960.


About 80 thousand tons of steels were needed to build the Golden Gate Bridge. Only half of that would be needed now.


The vulcan Spock, octopus, snails,  and spiders all have blue blood: The central atom of their hemoglobin is not iron (like in humans) but copper.


The first commercial mine for Al ore at Les Baux in France gave Bauxite its name.


The ancient names of iron are iren (anglo-saxons), isarnon (celts), isarn / isen (ancient german), ferrum (latin).


Gold is the only metal that is yellow or "golden". Other metals may develop a yellowish color, but only after they have oxidized or reacted with other chemicals.


24 karat gold is pure elemental gold. 18 karat gold is 75% pure gold. 14 karat gold is 58.5% pure gold, and 10 karat gold is 41.7% pure gold. 


The gold on Earth stems from meteorite bombardment.

The word 'silver' comes from the Anglo-Saxon word seolfor. There is no word that rhymes with the English word silver.

The symbol for silver, Ag, comes from the Latin word for silver, argentum, which in turn derives from the Sanskit word argunas, which mean shining. 

Silver is the only metal that gave a country its name: Argentina.

Silver is the best electric conductor of the elements. It is used as the standard by which other conductors are measured. On a scale of 0 to 100, silver ranks 100 in terms of electrical conductivity. Copper ranks 97 and gold ranks 76.

Iron is one of the most plentiful elements. It comprises about 5.6% of the earth's crust and almost all of the earth's core.

Plants use iron in chlorophyll, the pigment used in photosynthesis. Humans use iron in hemoglobin molecules in blood to allow for the transport of oxygen to tissues throughout the body.

Cobalt comes from the German word Kobold, which means goblin or evil spirit. It also has roots in the Greek word cobalos, which means mine. Cobalt based superalloys are very promising next-generation candidate materials for blade design for flying turbines.

The words tungsten (engl.) and Wolfram (germ.) come form the Swedish tung sten, heavy stone or wolf rahm and spumi lupi, respectively, because the ore wolframite interfered with tin smelting and was believed to devour the tin.




Vegatarians eat more titanium than non-vegatarians.


Discovery of Uranium Fissionability:  In 1938 Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassman discovered that uranium could be split to release energy, that is fission.


Neanderthals may have used black manganese dioxide as a cosmetic 50 000 years ago. 


About half of the crude steel consumed every year is made from recycled material.

In as little as 60 days a recycled aluminum can is able to be back on the supermarket shelf.

Huge magnets collect millions of steel cans every day by pulling them out of garbage.

In the US alone over 100 million tin and steel cans are used every day.

In as little as 60 days a recycled aluminum can is able to be back on the supermarket shelf.


Manganese is essential for photosynthesis. Without it, there would be no free oxygen on earth.

Manganese in humans needs to be topped up frequently because our bodies cannot store it.


The tallest free-standing structures in the world are made of steel. They include the Dubai skyscraper Burj Kalifa, the Tokyo television tower Skytree, and the Shaghai Tower skyscraper.


The only metal that is a liquid at ordinary room temperature and pressure is mercury. However, other metals melt close to room temperature. For example, you can melt the metal gallium in the palm of your hand,


Up until Medieval Times, there were only 7 known metals, which were called the Metals of Antiquity. The Metals of Antiquity and their approximate discovery dates are: Gold (6000 BC), Copper (9000 BC), Silver (4000 BC), Lead (6400 BC), Tin (3000 BC), Iron (1500 BC) and Mercury (1500 BC).


By weight, beryllium has six times the specific stiffness of steel.


The word "gold" comes from the Old Anglo-Saxon word "geolu," meaning yellow.


Around 161,000 tons of gold have been mined by humans.


Recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to run a TV for three hours.


When tossing a penny 10,000 times, it will not be heads 5000 times, but more like 4950. The heads picture weighs more, so it ends up on the bottom. This nonsymmetry applies to most coins.


Acta Mat. 2011, 59, p. 364