Elements

Elements

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?

  • Updated:
    Weekly
  • Episodes available:
    Indefinitely help

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Recent episodes (10)

  • Silicon (Si) - solar, 30 July 2014

    Mon, 18 Aug 14

    Duration:
    34 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 16MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

  • Silicon (Si) - chips, 23 July 2014

    Thu, 31 Jul 14

    Duration:
    28 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 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

  • Sulphur (S), 16 July 2014

    Wed, 30 Jul 14

    Duration:
    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?

    Download 17MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

  • Tungsten (W), 9 Jul 2014

    Tue, 29 Jul 14

    Duration:
    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.

    Download 17MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

  • Vanadium (V), 11 Jun 2014

    Mon, 28 Jul 14

    Duration:
    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

    Duration:
    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?

    Download 16MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

  • Nitrogen (N) - explosives, 28 May 2014

    Sat, 26 Jul 14

    Duration:
    36 mins

    70% of the Earth's atmosphere is Nitrogen. On its own it is inert – and so what makes it one of the key components of explosives such as nitro glycerine, dynamite and ammonium nitrate? Used in mining, construction and weapons, how did its explosive use come to be discovered?

    Download 17MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

  • Carbon (C) - plastics, 7 May 2014

    Fri, 25 Jul 14

    Duration:
    35 mins

    Polymers – or plastics – are enduring, useful, can be moulded into anything and are cheap to produce. They derive from petrochemicals and last forever. What can be done to deal with the environmental impact of them?

    Download 17MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

  • Sodium (Na), 30 Apr 2014

    Thu, 24 Jul 14

    Duration:
    34 mins

    Used in the manufacture of foods, paper, soap, surfactants, glass and textiles, Sodium is one of the most abundant elements on the planet. What makes salt such a controversial addition to food? And what is it about soap that gives it cleansing properties?

    Download 16MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

  • Chlorine (Cl), 14 Apr 2014

    Wed, 23 Jul 14

    Duration:
    34 mins

    Where does this toxic, green gas come from and what products does it help create? Why is it so devastating as a chemical weapon? Used in disinfectants and PVC, and in the manufacture of nylon and polyurethane, paint and electronics, pharmaceuticals and agrochemicals, it is reactive, versatile, and powerful.

    Download 16MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

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