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General Science => Question of the Week => Topic started by: thedoc on 07/07/2015 18:49:27

Title: QotW - 15.07.07 - What's the most expensive element on Earth?
Post by: thedoc on 07/07/2015 18:49:27
What's the most expensive element on Earth?  I'm reasonably sure it's not gold, maybe platinum or palladium.

Still love your show - the best!
 
John Gamel


Asked by John Gamel


                                        Find out more on our podcast page (http://www.thenakedscientists.com/HTML/podcasts/naked-scientists/show/1001097/)

 

Title: QotW - 15.07.07 - What's the most expensive element on Earth?
Post by: thedoc on 07/07/2015 18:49:27
We answered this question on the show...

Graihagh Jackson put John's question to chemist Mark Lorch, from the University of Hull...
Mark - Plenty of materials are extremely expensive. There are drugs such as soloris which costs a whopping $700,000 for a yearís treatment. There are chemicals that have high social costs through drug abuse or pollution. But strictly speaking, none of these are elements. They're mixtures of elements bound together known as molecules or minerals.
Graihagh - Ahh, so they're not strictly elements. That narrows down our search just a little. So, weíre clear though. What exactly is an element, Mark?
Mark - Elements themselves are something that canít be chemically broken down into a simpler substance. Of course, they're all nicely laid out on the periodic table or indeed in song. There's antimony, arsenic, aluminium, selenium, and hydrogen and oxygen, and nitrogen and uranium, etc. So, being a chemist, I'm going to use that definition of an element.
Graihagh - Okay, so weíre looking for an element, but what do we mean when we say expensive?
Mark - Well, we canít live without oxygen or carbon or a host of other elements which makes them invaluable. But to make things slightly simpler, I think Iíll stick to purely monetary values.
Graihagh - Let the fight beginÖWeighing in at just 12 on the atomic mass scale, itís lightweight underdog, carbon.
Mark - It might cost pennies when itís graphite in your pencil, but turn it into the best diamonds and it might fetch $100,000 for a gram.
Graihagh - That is a hefty price tag! What else is a contender?
Mark - Astatine Ė itís radioactive. The half-life of a few hours and so, it decays as quickly as itís produced. The result is that there's probably less than 10 grams of naturally occurring astatine on the whole of the earth. But astatine still isn't the rarest member of the periodic table, not if we take into account man-made elements. That accolade probably goes to livermorium, made by bombarding heavy atoms together causing them to briefly fuse into the new element. Only a handful of atoms have ever existed and with the half-life of 61 milliseconds, they donít hang around for very long either. But whilst these are fabulously expensive to manufacture, there's no commercial reason to do so.
Graihagh - What does that leave us with as our champion?
Mark - Itís another man-made element but a useful one. With applications ranging from initiating nuclear reactors to radio therapy treatments for some cancers, but it doesnít come cheap. You also need to set aside a cool $27 million for just 1 gram.
Graihagh - And the winner by knockout is californium!
Title: Re: QotW - 15.07.07 - What's the most expensive element on Earth?
Post by: syhprum on 06/07/2015 16:32:41
I cannot get a transcript of the show but I would assume it is antimatter that costs an awful lot to produce
Title: Hear the answer to this question on our show
Post by: thedoc on 07/07/2015 21:43:52
We discussed this question on our  show
Graihagh Jackson put John's question to chemist Mark Lorch, from the University of Hull...
Mark - Plenty of materials are extremely expensive. There are drugs such as soloris which costs a whopping $700,000 for a yearís treatment. There are chemicals that have high social costs through drug abuse or pollution. But strictly speaking, none of these are elements. They're mixtures of elements bound together known as molecules or minerals.
Graihagh - Ahh, so they're not strictly elements. That narrows down our search just a little. So, weíre clear though. What exactly is an element, Mark?
Mark - Elements themselves are something that canít be chemically broken down into a simpler substance. Of course, they're all nicely laid out on the periodic table or indeed in song. There's antimony, arsenic, aluminium, selenium, and hydrogen and oxygen, and nitrogen and uranium, etc. So, being a chemist, I'm going to use that definition of an element.
Graihagh - Okay, so weíre looking for an element, but what do we mean when we say expensive?
Mark - Well, we canít live without oxygen or carbon or a host of other elements which makes them invaluable. But to make things slightly simpler, I think Iíll stick to purely monetary values.
Graihagh - Let the fight beginÖWeighing in at just 12 on the atomic mass scale, itís lightweight underdog, carbon.
Mark - It might cost pennies when itís graphite in your pencil, but turn it into the best diamonds and it might fetch $100,000 for a gram.
Graihagh - That is a hefty price tag! What else is a contender?
Mark - Astatine Ė itís radioactive. The half-life of a few hours and so, it decays as quickly as itís produced. The result is that there's probably less than 10 grams of naturally occurring astatine on the whole of the earth. But astatine still isn't the rarest member of the periodic table, not if we take into account man-made elements. That accolade probably goes to livermorium, made by bombarding heavy atoms together causing them to briefly fuse into the new element. Only a handful of atoms have ever existed and with the half-life of 61 milliseconds, they donít hang around for very long either. But whilst these are fabulously expensive to manufacture, there's no commercial reason to do so.
Graihagh - What does that leave us with as our champion?
Mark - Itís another man-made element but a useful one. With applications ranging from initiating nuclear reactors to radio therapy treatments for some cancers, but it doesnít come cheap. You also need to set aside a cool $27 million for just 1 gram.
Graihagh - And the winner by knockout is californium!
Click to visit the show page for the podcast in which this question is answered. (http://www.thenakedscientists.com/HTML/podcasts/naked-scientists/show/20150707/) Alternatively, [chapter podcast=1001096 track=15.07.07/Naked_Scientists_Show_15.07.07_1003866.mp3](https://www.thenakedscientists.com/forum/proxy.php?request=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.thenakedscientists.com%2FHTML%2Ftypo3conf%2Fext%2Fnaksci_podcast%2Fgnome-settings-sound.gif&hash=f2b0d108dc173aeaa367f8db2e2171bd) listen to the answer now[/chapter] or [download as MP3] (http://nakeddiscovery.com/downloads/split_individual/15.07.07/Naked_Scientists_Show_15.07.07_1003866.mp3)
Title: Re: QotW - 15.07.07 - What's the most expensive element on Earth?
Post by: syhprum on 07/07/2015 22:53:09
Top of the league must be anti Hydrogen a vast amount of money has been spent to produce a few atoms
Title: Re: QotW - 15.07.07 - What's the most expensive element on Earth?
Post by: alancalverd on 07/07/2015 23:36:42
Not an element, admittedly, but back in the 1970's I bought some specialist subminiature thin-film thermistors which cost 400 times as much as moondust per gram.

On the side of natural elements, some diamonds have the property of becoming conductive when irradiated with x-rays. These "counting diamonds" are useful in precise applications of radiotherapy but most display a background "dark current" which varies with temperature and makes the calculation of radiation dose a bit less accurate.

One physicist of my acquaintance built a machine to automatically sort through counting diamonds and extract those with minimal dark current. After 2,000,000 trials he found one called the Superstone that behaved like an ideal radiation monitor, with no detectable dark current but 3000 times more sensitive than a conventional ion chamber. He cut it into 30 pieces and distributed the chips (about 0.7 mm square and 0.1 mm thick) to various national laboratory research groups, including mine. As a gem, my chip would have been worth about £1, but as far as we knew these chips were the only ones in the universe with this exceptionally useful property, and I was preparing to spend about £1,000,000 over several years incorporating it into a primary measurement standard, where its benefit to mankind could have run into several million pounds per year. We lost it.   
Title: Re: QotW - 15.07.07 - What's the most expensive element on Earth?
Post by: chris on 17/08/2017 10:23:08
I understand that rhenium is pretty pricey - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhenium
Title: Re: QotW - 15.07.07 - What's the most expensive element on Earth?
Post by: Bored chemist on 18/08/2017 14:40:09
anti Hydrogen

It seems you are  right.
"In 1999, NASA gave a cost estimate of $62.5 trillion per gram of antihydrogen (equivalent to $90 trillion today), making it the most expensive material to produce.[2] This is due to the extremely low yield per experiment, and high opportunity cost of using a particle accelerator."

From
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antihydrogen
Though...
https://www.theguardian.com/science/2011/apr/24/antihelium-antimatter-brookhaven
Title: Re: QotW - 15.07.07 - What's the most expensive element on Earth?
Post by: cinka on 21/08/2017 01:23:15
I believe it's platinum, do you agree?
Title: Re: QotW - 15.07.07 - What's the most expensive element on Earth?
Post by: chiralSPO on 21/08/2017 05:00:59
I believe it's platinum, do you agree?

No. Platinum is worth about $32 per gram today. Gold comes in at nearly $42 per gram (platinum used to be much more than gold, but it hasn't really recovered since the 2007-2008 recession). Weapon's grade uranium is more like $3400 per gram. And some of the more exotic isotopes are significantly more expensive than even that.
Title: Re: QotW - 15.07.07 - What's the most expensive element on Earth?
Post by: mikerhaord on 20/02/2018 13:48:51
It depends, if expensiveness is caused by rarity or by human factor
Title: Re: QotW - 15.07.07 - What's the most expensive element on Earth?
Post by: petelamana on 20/02/2018 17:16:31
Trinitite is currently sells for $34.50/gram.
Title: Re: QotW - 15.07.07 - What's the most expensive element on Earth?
Post by: chris on 20/02/2018 23:35:17
Trinitite

What's that?
Title: Re: QotW - 15.07.07 - What's the most expensive element on Earth?
Post by: wolfekeeper on 20/02/2018 23:45:55
Stupidity
Title: Re: QotW - 15.07.07 - What's the most expensive element on Earth?
Post by: petelamana on 21/02/2018 01:09:20
Stupidity?  I beg your pardon...

"Trinitite, also known as atomsite or Alamogordo glass, is the glassy residue left on the desert floor after the plutonium-based Trinity nuclear bomb test on July 16, 1945, near Alamogordo, New Mexico. The glass is primarily composed of arkosic sand composed of quartz grains and feldspar (both microcline [aand smaller amount of plagioclase with small amount of calcite, hornblende and augite in a matrix of sandy clay) that was melted by the atomic blast. It is usually a light green, although color can vary. It is mildly radioactive but safe to handle." - From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Title: Re: QotW - 15.07.07 - What's the most expensive element on Earth?
Post by: wolfekeeper on 21/02/2018 01:14:19
No, I mean stupidity is the most expensive element on earth, it's worth trillions!
Title: Re: QotW - 15.07.07 - What's the most expensive element on Earth?
Post by: petelamana on 21/02/2018 01:16:24
I beg forgiveness.   :-[
Title: Re: QotW - 15.07.07 - What's the most expensive element on Earth?
Post by: Colin2B on 21/02/2018 06:31:37
No, I mean stupidity is the most expensive element on earth, it's worth trillions!
It certainly costs us trillions.
Title: Re: QotW - 15.07.07 - What's the most expensive element on Earth?
Post by: JaneMiller on 02/05/2018 03:08:41
I thing the most expensive element is Francium!
Title: Re: QotW - 15.07.07 - What's the most expensive element on Earth?
Post by: CliffordK on 02/05/2018 20:51:18
I would think that synthetic anti-helium would be more "expensive" than anti-hydrogen.
Title: Re: QotW - 15.07.07 - What's the most expensive element on Earth?
Post by: guest45734 on 07/05/2018 09:37:38
Has anybody ever heard of Californium.

Californium in 1970 was 10$/microgram according to wiki https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Californium
Title: Re: QotW - 15.07.07 - What's the most expensive element on Earth?
Post by: Bored chemist on 07/05/2018 10:36:26
I would think that synthetic anti-helium would be more "expensive" than anti-hydrogen.
Interesting thought.
Ordinary 4He is much cheaper than ordinary 3He.
I wonder if it would be the other way round for anti 4He and  3He.
Title: Re: QotW - 15.07.07 - What's the most expensive element on Earth?
Post by: CliffordK on 07/05/2018 11:50:32
I would think that synthetic anti-helium would be more "expensive" than anti-hydrogen.
Interesting thought.
Ordinary 4He is much cheaper than ordinary 3He.
I wonder if it would be the other way round for anti 4He and  3He.

4He, of course is a nuclear decay product, and can be mined, thus relatively plentiful, while 3He is primarily created in the sun, stars, and supernovae, and generally escapes Earth's atmosphere, thus less common on Earth.

However, when synthesizing it from hydrogen. it would depend on how one is fusing atoms, or in this case anti-atoms to make Helium.

It may be that an anti-deuterium is first synthesized, then fused to form anti-4He

Title: Re: QotW - 15.07.07 - What's the most expensive element on Earth?
Post by: guest45734 on 07/05/2018 14:33:38
It may be that an anti-deuterium is first synthesized, then fused to form anti-4He
Are you talking about Californium see above.
Title: Re: QotW - 15.07.07 - What's the most expensive element on Earth?
Post by: CliffordK on 07/05/2018 18:59:04
It may be that an anti-deuterium is first synthesized, then fused to form anti-4He
Are you talking about Californium see above.

Nope,

There are a number of synthetic elements, of which Californium is just one.  Pretty much any element heavier than Uranium, or with an atomic number greater than 93.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extended_periodic_table_(large_version)

The reason they are not found naturally occurring on Earth would be due to their short half-lives.  So, if they had been naturally formed by whatever supernova created Earth's matter, they would have long since decayed and disappeared.  Californium has some relatively stable forms with a halflife of up to 898 years.  Some of the heaviest synthetic elements have half lives of less than a second.  Also, there are many synthetic isotopes with extremely short half-lives.  For example, Hydrogen-7 (7H) has a half life of 23 x 10-24 seconds.

All "matter" on Earth consists of positive charged protons, and negative charged electrons. 

However, there are corresponding sub-atomic particles with the opposite charge. 

Positrons are essentially positively charged electrons, and are naturally occurring during lightening and some nuclear decay (β+ decay), but annihilate rapidly when they come into contact with electrons.

Anti-protons can be synthesized in particle accelerators.  And, combining positrons with anti-protons, one gets one's first anti-element, anti-hydrogen.  It is actually relatively stable, but very difficult to contain as it annihilates when it comes into contact with any other normal element.  Magnetic containment in a vacuum?

Many synthetic elements and anti-particles are counted as individual atoms.

Avagadro's Number is the number of atoms in a few grams of a substance (the atomic mass in grams).  So, 6.022 ◊ 1023  atoms to make one gram of hydrogen (or anti-hydrogen).  Thus, making elements one atom at a time, one doesn't get very much.

It isn't just Star Trek.  In theory, anti-matter when combined with normal matter is the most energetic substance known to man.  If something like anti-lithium could be synthesized, it would be a solid at room temperature, and potentially could be relatively easy to store and transport (in a vacuum), and magnetically isolated.
Title: Re: QotW - 15.07.07 - What's the most expensive element on Earth?
Post by: Tomassci on 01/06/2018 07:30:45
Isn't it rhenium or indium?
Title: Re: QotW - 15.07.07 - What's the most expensive element on Earth?
Post by: syhprum on 09/06/2018 22:44:59
Is the cost of weapons grade u235 the cost of materiel produced with modern techniques or the historic cost of what was produced by the Manhattan project ?
Title: Re: QotW - 15.07.07 - What's the most expensive element on Earth?
Post by: Zer0 on 25/06/2018 06:00:23
Happyness!

Even if u own the whole world, n spend all d moolah u got, its still not guaranteed ull get it.

P.S. - Blessed are the Wise who say ' Happiness is a state of your Mind. '
😇