A close look at chemical elements, the basic building blocks of the universe. Where do we get them, what do we use them for and how do they fit into the economy?

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Recent episodes (10)

  • Lead (Pb), 01 Oct 2014

    Wed, 1 Oct 14

    39 mins

    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?

    Download 18MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

  • Caesium (Cs), 24 Sep 2014

    Wed, 24 Sep 14

    39 mins

    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.

    Download 18MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

  • Bromine (Br), 17 Sep 2014

    Wed, 17 Sep 14

    29 mins

    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"?

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  • Plutonium (Pu), 10 Sep 2014

    Thu, 11 Sep 14

    38 mins

    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.

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  • Silicon (Si) - solar, 30 July 2014

    Mon, 18 Aug 14

    39 mins

    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.

    Download 18MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

  • Silicon (Si) - chips, 23 July 2014

    Thu, 31 Jul 14

    40 mins

    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?

    Download 19MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

  • Sulphur (S), 16 July 2014

    Wed, 30 Jul 14

    35 mins

    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?

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  • Tungsten (W), 9 Jul 2014

    Tue, 29 Jul 14

    36 mins

    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.

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  • Vanadium (V), 11 Jun 2014

    Mon, 28 Jul 14

    29 mins

    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.

    Download 14MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

  • Nitrogen (N) - fertilisers, 4 Jun 2014

    Sun, 27 Jul 14

    34 mins

    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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