“What is one of the most fundamental radioactive elements?”
In celebration of International Women’s Day, we here at Isaac’s Science Blog thought that it would be appropriate to talk about one of Marie Curie’s most famous discoveries, the element Radium. Radium is a soft, shiny and silvery radioactive metal that belongs in the second group and seventh period of the periodic table. Although it is now deemed to be too radioactive for common use, it used to be used as a paint for clock and watch dials. The discovery of Radium led Marie Curie to receive a Nobel Prize. However, due to not patenting the element, she received few monetary benefits (despite kickstarting an entire industry). In fact, her intense work with the radioactive element had ravaged her health. Never the less, we must honor her work, and spend this International Women’s Day thinking about the countless sacrifices that women have made to advance our knowledge of science.
The Strange Second State of Water
“Can water have a second liquid state?”
Water is a most peculiar molecular compound. Although this material composes over sixty percent of the human body and the vast majority of the Earth’s surface area, we still know very little about the chemical and physical properties and behaviors of this element. And this idea could not be better exemplified by a most recent discovery lead by a highly intelligent group of scientists.
At Oxford University, A group of physicists led by the postdoctoral research assistant Laura Martinez Maestro had decided to conduct a new experiment on water (Crew, Bec). For this, they took a sample of water at zero degrees Celsius and increased the temperature slowly until it reached one hundred degrees Celsius while measuring the thermal conductivity, refractive index, conductivity, surface tension, and the dielectric constant. Once the water hit, 40 degrees Celsius, its properties started to shift drastically, and once it had hit 60 degrees Celsius all of its properties had changed into something new. Specifically, the temperature of change was 64 degrees Celsius for thermal conductivity, 50 degrees Celsius for refractive index, about 53 degrees Celsius for conductivity, and 57 degrees Celsius for surface tension.
Why does this happen? Although everything seems murky at the moment, this phenomenon might be a consequence of the fact that water molecules only have a very weak bond with one another, and that the bond between oxygen and hydrogen is far greater than the hydrogen-hydrogen bonding. As a result, the molecular structure of molecules is constantly changing and reforming, leading many to believe that this might be the cause for the strange second stage of matter
Crew, Bec. “Physicists Just Discovered a Second State of Liquid Water.” ScienceAlert, ScienceAlert, 14 Nov. 2016, http://www.sciencealert.com/physicists-just-discovered-a-second-state-of-liquid-water.
“Can we use paint to make energy?”
Paint is usually seen as just a covering used to keep mold away or for making art. However, is it possible to do more with this material? Well, let’s analyze this using our scientific mindset. If we were to mix in titanium oxide into paint, then it would be capable of absorbing sunlight to convert the moisture into hydrogen and oxygen, therefore allowing for the consumption of hydrogen energy. This tecnology is currently being developed by a team at RMIT in Australia and could revolutionize sustainable energy generation, allowing for easy residential level consumption!
Chemical activity series
“How can we predict if an atom will react with another atom or not?”
If you ever decide to take a chemistry class, you will probably have to solve a lot of chemical reactions sets. However, have you ever wondered whether or not if these sets can be achieved or not? Well, in the natural world, it has been empirically investigated that some elements are more reactive with others. And in fact, this has found to be a linear correlation. To illustrate, let’s say that elements x is more reactive than element y which is more reactive than element z, then element x will also be more reactive with element z. If you put together an entire list of all of the reactivities of the periodic table of elements, you would build something that is called a reactivity series. The most reactive element is fluorine [F], and the least reactive metal is neon[Ne]
“Why are materials electrically insulative, conductive, or semiconductive?”
All materials fall into one of three classifications when it comes to moving an electric current, insulative, conductive, or semiconductive. However, what property determines this? Well, let’s look at the atomic level to find out. When multiples atoms come close together, their possible energy states branch out into multiple bands. The two most important bands are the valence (which holds the outermost electrons) and conduction bands (which holds electrons ready to conduct) These bands will be separated by a valence gap.. If there is no difference, then it takes no extra energy to conduct energy and the material is conductive. If there is a noticeable but surmountable gap then the material is semiconductive. And if it is impossible to reach then it is insulative. You can think of it like the distance to a basketball hoop, the higher the height the more energy is required.
“How can we measure the calories present in food?”
In our modern health obsessed world, we would like to know the calories contained in all foods. However, how can this even be determined in the first place? Well, let’s think back to a bit of prior knowledge. We know that calories are another way of saying energy and that we can measure the energy content of fuels using calorimeters. So what if we were to make a special type of calorimeter to find the energy contained in foods? Well, let’s put our engineering mind to the test.
First, let’s get a big tub of water. Then, let’s take a sample of our food, place it in an insulating case with some oxygen, attach it to an ignition coil, and place everything in the water. When we activate the ignition unit, the ignition coil will cause our sample to explode and raise the temperature of the water. From the measured temperature change, we will be able to measure the calories contained in the sample! This device is known as a bomb calorimeter and is used in food labs all over the world.
“How can we determine the energy composition of a fuel?”
Fuels are one of the most vital pieces of operation for modern transportation. However, how do scientists determine the amount of energy contained in them in the first place? Well, let’s think about it. We know that if we ignite fuel, then we can get a fire. And we also know that this fire can heat objects such a cup of water. And we also know that if we measure the change in temperature of this water, then we can obtain the amount of heat added. So what if we were to combine all of the processes to make an energy measuring device? Well, this is the fundamental idea behind a calorimeter and is used in industrial operations all over this planet.