THE POWER SOURCE OF
THE MOBILE AGE
DISCOVERY YEAR : 1817
The red in
a bright red
Lithium, the lightest metal, was also born at
the time of the Big Bang, so hydrogen, helium,
and lithium are actually triplets. But there
was so little lithium at the time, it couldn’t
do much. Today, however, it is an essential
component in both lithium ion batteries and
mobile devices. It’s light, powerful, and easy
to recharge, and it doesn’t really deteriorate.
It can also be found in seawater, so we won’t
run out anytime soon.
It’s the elite metal with skills galore: It
weighs two-thirds what aluminum does, it
resists heat with a melting point of 1278°C,
and it can create springs that can withstand
over 20 billion contractions. Yet it still leads
a tragic life due to the fact that its parti-
cles form a deadly poison. Since it’s hard to
forge anything without ﬁrst powdering the
materials, it has not been adopted in mass
ELITE AND LEGENDARY!
DISCOVERY YEAR: 1797
over 20 billion
HELPING OUR DAILY LIVES
IN SO MANY WAYS
DISCOVERY YEAR: 1892
We mostly use boron in compounds. For
example, the technical term for the heat-
resistant glass Pyrex is borosilicate glass,
created by adding boron oxide to keep the
glass from swelling and shrinking. Harder
diamonds can be created by combining boron
with carbon. Finding new boron combina-
tions is a great way for a chemist to show
off; two Nobel prizes have been awarded for
boron compound research.
Carbon is the building block of all life.
One could argue that the food chain
should instead be called something like
“the carbon tug-of-war.” Carbo hydrates,
proteins, and all the other nutrients
that we require are made up of carbon
compounds. The same is also true of
our cells, DNA, and the plants we eat.
(Plants create their carbohydrates from
carbon dioxide through a process called
PART OF EVERY
DISCOVERY YEAR: ANCIENT
There are over 10,000,000
different naturally occurring
how it binds
used in tennis
photosynthesis.) The fourth most abun-
dant element in the universe, carbon
comes in many forms, from the graphite
in our pencils to diamonds. The forms are
so different that it’s hard to believe that
they’re made from the same element.
It appears today in oil, plastics, clothes,
and medicines. It has also drawn a lot of
recent attention with the advent of car-
bon nanotube research.