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Posts Tagged ‘oxidation’

Real Life Fantasy: Heat-reactive metals

When we shared that crazy rectangular iceberg a while back, we said there would be more about bismuth in the next RLF entry.


I’m cheating a bit with this entry, and directly quoting the online Encyclopedia Brittanica entry for bismuth:

“Bismuth is a rather brittle metal with a somewhat pinkish, silvery metallic lustre. Bismuth is the most diamagnetic of all metals (i.e., it exhibits the greatest opposition to being magnetized). It is hard and coarsely crystalline. It undergoes a 3.3 percent expansion when it solidifies from the molten state. Its electrical conductivity is very poor, but somewhat better in the liquid state than in the solid. With respect to thermal conductivity, it is the poorest of all metals except mercury.

“Although it does not tarnish in air at ordinary temperatures, bismuth forms an oxide coating when heated and is oxidized rapidly at its boiling point of 1,560 °C. The yellow colour of this oxide distinguishes it from those formed by other metals. At red heat, bismuth reacts with steam, but it is not affected by cold, air-free water; it combines directly with sulfur and with the halogens (fluorine, chlorine, bromine, iodine). The element is not attacked by hydrochloric acid, and only slightly by hot sulfuric acid, but it is rapidly dissolved by either dilute or concentrated nitric acid.”

The bold and italic sentence above (emphasis mine) is what makes bismuth so dang cool.


a chunk of elemental bismuth
A chunk of regular old bismuth.


WHOA! Rainbow bismuth
And this is rainbow magic oxidized bismuth!


Similarly, here’s what happens when you expose bars of titanium to different wavelengths of light voltages of electricity (thanks, Cory, for the correction!):

Found this gem on Reddit a while ago. Link in pic.

Speaking of Reddit, I also found a video of a person torching a brick of pure copper:]

The thing is, oxidation does some pretty wicked things to many of the elements found on Earth… And thermodynamics (ie heat, or the lack thereof) changes everything. The amount of heat needed to catalyze a chemical reaction depends on the element or compound, atmospheric pressure, density, volume, etc.

Aaaaand, as some of you may know, we humans have trace amounts of several metals in our bodies–each essential to our good health.

LiveScience comes through again! Thanks y’all.

Calcium (that’s right, calcium is a metal!), cobalt, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, sodium, and zinc are the primary metals found in humans. They also produce distinct colors when exposed to heat, or used to create compounds. Or both. Cobalt is associated with blue, manganese with violet, magnesium with green, et cetera.

You see where I’m going with this?

Drafters use the chemical compounds in their bodies to create luxin. The same compounds that exist in all of us. Being lightsick, like being hungover, stems from a person’s body chemistry being out of balance (which is why hydration and electrolytes are so helpful in recovering from too much… drafting).

So my question for you, faithful Chromeriacs, is this: is The Lightbringer Series epic fantasy… Or science fiction?

Real Life Fantasy: Hemocyanin, and the colors of blood

So we’ve been talking about the history of the color blue, and one shade in particular: murex purple. Turns out that [anthropologists and archaeologists believe] blue was the last color category to enter the human lexicon, and was likely the last color to be distinguished/perceived by human eyes.

"Tangerine Moon and Wine Dark Sea," Milton Avery, 1959.
“Tangerine Moon and Wine Dark Sea,” Milton Avery, 1959.

PLUS, there’s one particular shade of blue (or indigo, depending) that is derived by extracting the blood from thousands of little ocean snails, oxidizing it, and dyeing fabric with it to create a mystical hue known as tekhelet, Tyrian purple, or (as mentioned above) murex purple, which was once more valuable than gold–partially because it became brighter when exposed to sunlight and weathering.

In the beautiful mosaic of 20th-century art and science, it was discovered how and why the blood of many earth critters can manifest so many beautiful hues.

Hemoglobin is what we humans (and most mammals) have as a means to carry oxygen to the cells in our bodies. It uses iron molecules to get the job done.

Hemocyanin, on the other hand, uses copper to do this same job in many sea creatures, including crabs, lobsters, and of course, sea snails.

Wait, copper? Like, the stuff pennies were made of?


So how do we get blue dye from copper? I bet you’re asking.

Oxygen, and sunlight. Really! When copper oxidizes*, it turns a greenish-bluish shade.

What do you mean, you don’t believe me? You’ve seen the Statue of Liberty, right?

That French beaut is made of 3/32 in copper, protected by a lovely patina. Totally rockin’ that look, Lady Liberty!

But here’s the part that was news to me: some animals have green blood! Others have purple blood! This Vox article explains this phenomenon well.

Thanks Compound Interest for the graphic!


There’s no mention of animals being able to draft, though. I thought for sure there would be some mention that dissection revealed these creatures were packing luxin… Huh, I just realized sub-red drafters give whole new meaning to “packing heat”!

Okay, I’m gonna stop there.


*Thanks for making us do all those redox equations in AP Chem, Ms. Johnson! That knowledge finally came in handy! 😉