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My favorite elements July 14, 2008

Posted by fetzthechemist in Uncategorized.

Induced by the Practical Transmutations blog:


I have loved learning about the elements since I was seven or eight years old. I loved reading of the searches for new elements in exotic minerals, the claims that were later proved fase (alabamine, for instance). Later it became a fascination for the man-made ones that then were being made – nobelium and lawrencium and their kin. I wrote Albert Ghiorso a letter and he kindly sent me a large pile of reprints on elements 102 to 105. (I met him and Glenn Seaborg years later after I moved to the East Bay of the San Francisco Bay Area).

Anyway, I love the elements and periodic table to the point that my favorites sometimes go into specific oxidation states or isotopes! Some examples of what fascinates me:

The rare earths are a seemingly close bunch of brothers and sisters, but their UV spectra are very unique. Those arise from the buried f electron transitions, so there are lots of very narrow lines. This also gives a few nice colors, like samarium being pink.

Oxygen 17 and 18, carbon 13, sulfur 33, 34, and 36. Why? These helped get me through grad school. One of my projects was isotopic effects in the gas chromatography of small gases like carbonyl sulfide, carbon disulfide, and sulfur dioxide. There’s not just a mass-diffusion effect, but specific effects due to interactions of the bonds where dipole moments, polarizability, and infrared and Raman frequency difference effect the interactions with adsorbents.

Chromium was my undergrad research focus, specifically the electrochemistry of chromium (V) going to chromium (IV). Pretty colors and a dropping mercury apparatus.

Vanadium – its porphyrins are commonly found in crude oils in trace amounts, at most 0.003 % in Venzuela Boscan crude. After many fractionations by ultrahigh vacuum distillation (they “boil” in the range equivalent to 650 C to 700 C) and various chromatographies, these are a nice purple-violet color when pure.

Sulfur because it occurs naturally an eight-ring sulfur molecule which is nonpolar and a lot more common in things than people think. I have told more than one researcher that his/ her unknown peak was sulfur.

Of course, carbon, but only in its conforms of fullerenes and PAHs. Fun molecules to play with.



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