Sunday, July 17, 2011

Manganese Is Neither Transgendered Nor Racist

The words manganese and magnesium are related. Their entwined roots stem back to a place called Magnesia in ancient Greece where they were both found in abundance. Some speculate that Spartan swords were exceptionally hard because of manganese content in their iron. Manganese's word history is parsed here and van der Krogt has his take here.

Manganese has been used since antiquity both to color and to decolorize glass. The Venetians perfected "glassmaker's soap," making high art with it.  Glass always contains iron in trace amounts and this imparts a greenish "coke bottle" tinge. The addition of manganese to the molten glass produces a reddish-brown tinge which equalizes the absorption across the visible spectrum and gives so-called colorless glass. More reading on colored glass can be found here.

Manganese also demarcates an important trend in the Periodic Table. Moving from left to right across the first transition metal series, i.e., Sc -> Ti -> V -> Cr -> Mn, each element adds one more positive charge to its core (and one surrounding electron). Yet those electrons can be stripped by oxygen. A tipping point is reached between manganese and iron. Manganese is the last metal in that series to exhaustively lose all of its valence electrons to oxygen. Thus the manganese atom in permanganate MnO4-, is fully oxidized back to having an argon core. But moving just one element further to the right (to iron) is just enough change in electronegativity that iron retains two valence electrons: there is a ferrate but no perferrate.

Ironically, despite its reputation for rusting, iron retains an inner core of two valence electrons, even when completely surrounded by rapacious oxygen. Iron is one step closer to the noble metals.


  1. Isn't the new nuclear fuel Thorium?

    It's as soft as butter. But if you put a piece into some water, it bursts into flame.

    Sure. I could be wrong. I get all the science I know from picture books.

    But I did read that China, not wanting to use uranium, had designed these "egg crates" that shake. When the "fuel" runs out ... you're left with sand particles. That just drops to the bottom.

    Less dangerous than the byproduct of uranium.

    But you tell me?

  2. Thorium has a very future if the public would get on board. This won't happen until the DOE (Steven Chu) gives it his blessing link.

    I have a whole series of blogposts called "Chu On This" :)

  3. Hey I used to have razor blades made of that stuff.

  4. I'm not so sure everything being worked on is "discussed." Especially not to people who think they're grabbing onto a nobel prize ... or something.

    Now, I did hear "somewhere" ... that the chinese were interested in thorium ... because they can put it into "egg crates" and shake out "some energy." And, then what's left drops to the bottom as sand. Nothing glows in the dark. And, it's not a high power usage system. But then China, by and large, "isn't."

    I also think stuff is best kept secret. Like Stuxnet.

    For instance, Debka just reported that iran changed out ALL of it's centrifuges (?) ... As if I can do more than just guess at 'shaking tubes.' But they replaced all 5,000 or 6,000 of them. (And, I thought to myself, "gee, how would the Israelis know? What do centrifuges tell them? Why think the "new ones" aren't gonna be like the old ones?") Why advertise?

    Besides, if you're talking to a bunch of senators they are all blow hards. It's not as if they understand what glows ... and what does not.

    I did see, however, something probably on YouTube. Where a "slice of thorium" was cut off a piece ... like it was just butter. It "fell" into a glass of water ... And, it exploded. I'm sure the cameraman was safe, though.

    And, experiments are always interesting when they demonstrate something.

  5. Lots of metals are easy to slice and react violently in water: sodium, potassium, cesium to name a few. They're all easy to slice and dice with a dull knife.

    Here's something I just learned about Thorium: link. It is used in camera lenses.

  6. Note that thorium is not radioactive on its own. It has to activated by neutrons. In that sense it is a bit like LiD (lithium deuteride), the core material in H-bombs. By the way, that was topic secret in the 1950s.