Monday, August 2, 2010

Element of the Month: Indium!

August's Element of the Month:


Atomic Mass: 114.818 amu
Melting Point: 156.60 °C
Boiling Point: 2072 °C

Indium is a silvery-white metal. Ho-hum. Sometimes it seems like two-thirds of the periodic table is a silvery-white metal, which may in fact be the case. Check out the melting point for Indium, though. You could melt this stuff in a saucepan on your stove, if you were so inclined. Which might be cool. It seems to be the most remarkable thing about the stuff, although it also says here that it "emits a high-pitched 'cry' when it is bent," which is kind of weird.

Indium is chemically similar to aluminum, but is usually found alongside zinc deposits. It was isolated by some brainy German guys, who presented a half-kilogram bar of the new stuff at the 1867 World's Fair. That must have been kind of awesome. These days, if they exhibited a kilogram of a new element at a World's Fair, it would be synthetic, unstable, and probably lethal to all life forms within a day's drive of the fairgrounds. It would cast a real pall on the festivities. But I digress.

The Centerfold!

So, you've got some Indium and you're wondering what to do with it? Well, it is used is specialized solders, in semiconductors, and in various alloys for use in situations where melting at a low temperature is a good thing. It has long been used as a coating for high-performance ball bearings, for some reason. Its marquee use, though, seems to be in Liquid Crystal Displays and touchscreens. That's because... um... well... maybe you better talk to a materials scientist if you need the answer to that one.

There's a bit of a debate, apparently, between those Indium enthusiasts who feel that there is only about a decade's worth of supply left in the world at current rates of consumption, and those Indium enthusiasts who are pretty sure there are plenty of untapped sources around and that we'll get to them in plenty of time. But then, the same argument is had for virtually all of the raw materials on which our sprawling and sophisticated civilization depends. I'm sure it's nothing to worry about.


Dr. Kenneth Noisewater said...

My house is made of the westernized form, Indianum.

Michael5000 said...

Dr. Ken: Shiny!

gl. said...

ooo, could i have some of this for my birthday?

Bridget B. said...

Element of the month? This is delightfully dorky, even for you.