Wed, 1 Oct 14
Lead is the sweetest of poisons, blamed for everything from mad Roman emperors to modern-day crime waves. Yet a lead-acid battery is still what gets your car going in the morning. So have we finally learnt how to handle this heavyweight element?
Wed, 24 Sep 14
The atomic clock runs on caesium, and has redefined the very meaning of time. But it has also introduced a bug into timekeeping that affects everything from computerised financial markets to electricity grids to satellite navigation to the Greenwich Meridian.
Wed, 17 Sep 14
Famed as an anti-aphrodisiac, bromine's biggest use is actually in dousing flames in your home, not in your heart. Bromine-based fire retardants are found in everything from your sofa to your radio. But this chemical element has also sparked a series of health scares. So is bromine something to worry about, or is it just the victim of "chemophobia"?
Thu, 11 Sep 14
Plutonium is one of a family of highly radioactive "synthetic" elements cooked up in nuclear reactors. But does it and its kin have any practical application besides the atom bomb? We travel to plutonium's sunny birthplace to find out.
Mon, 18 Aug 14
Silicon is a key component in solar panel manufacturing and as such is crucial to the future of power for the planet. We hear from John Schaeffer, a solar power pioneer, Richard Swanson of Sun Power and Lynn Jurich, founder of Sunrun, busy developing ways to make solar panel manufacturing and distribution ever more cost efficient. Meanwhile Barry Goldwater Jr., former Republican Congressman, is busy fighting its cause in the corridors of power. The sun, he says, will win the day.
Thu, 31 Jul 14
Silicon is the basis of the hi-tech revolution - why is it so important in the manufacture of silicon chips? And will we continue to rely on it into the future?
Wed, 30 Jul 14
Smelly and colourful, much of our sulphur comes as a byproduct of oil and gas. It is used in fertilisers, to strengthen materials and as sulphuric acid it is the most widely used industrial chemical. The world faces a glut of this chemical element, what uses can it be put to?
Tue, 29 Jul 14
One of the heaviest metals, tungsten - also known as Wolfram - is super strong. Only diamonds are harder. As such it can cut through anything, and is used in manufacturing machinery.
Mon, 28 Jul 14
Added to steel to make it stronger and more resistant at high temperatures, Vanadium is also an essential micro-nutrient for humans. Its new applications include the manufacture of giant batteries and it could be vital to the future of solar energy.
Sun, 27 Jul 14
Agriculture is built upon the use of Nitrogen fertilisers, so without it, we couldn't feed the world. The Haber Bosch process means that Nitrogen in the air can be extracted. What is it about Nitrogen that makes it so important in growing crops?
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