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Author Topic: What metals (or elements) are commonly found in elemental form in nature?  (Read 23214 times)

Offline CliffordK

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What metals (or elements) are commonly found in elemental form in nature?

As far as metals, Gold would top the list as it is relatively inert.

For elements, you would have:
Maybe Hydrogen??
All the inert gases.

Anything else?

Apparently lead is occasionally found in elemental form, but most commonly found as a sulfide.
« Last Edit: 12/08/2012 05:36:55 by CliffordK »


Offline evan_au

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Wiki says: "only a small minority of elements are found as recognizable, relative pure minerals. Among the more common of such "native elements" are copper, silver, gold, carbon (as coal, graphite, or diamonds), sulfur, and mercury. All but a few of the most inert elements, such as noble gases and noble metals, are usually found on Earth in chemically combined form, as chemical compounds. While about 32 of the chemical elements occur on Earth in native uncombined form, most of these occur as mixtures. For example, atmospheric air is primarily a mixture of nitrogen, oxygen, and argon, and native solid elements occur in alloys, such as that of iron and nickel."

Some examples:
  • Platinum metal is found in nature - some people panning for gold in South America reportedly threw them back in the river because it wasn't "ripe" yet!
  • Mercury is reactive and volatile, but it has been released in metallic form when lightning struck rocks rich in mercury ore
  • Iron and nickel are quickly oxidised in air, but exist in metallic form in meteorites
  • Argon is dense, and makes up 1% of the atmosphere
  • Helium is light, and escapes from the surface, but it is generated as alpha particles by radioactive decay

I expect that most hydrogen gas in the atmosphere would be rapidly converted to water, by microbe metabolism or by lightning. It makes up about 0.5 parts per million, which is still more than xenon and iodine...

Offline Bored chemist

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Copper is sometimes found as the metal, though it's more common to find it as compounds.
The platinum group metals and silver are found as free metals too.

Offline damocles

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Hydrogen is found in the atmosphere in minute but measurable amounts. -- About 0.5 parts per million by "volume" -- i.e. number of molecules. Xenon is only 0.1 ppmv in the atmosphere, so I guess hydrogen should count.
By the same token, helium is 5.1 ppmv of the atmosphere: although it escapes to space, the process is slow, and the helium content of the atmosphere is replenished by the escape of helium from radioactive decay from the rocks. The whole system is in a steady state, with a turnover time around 1 million years.

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