RNZ: Elemental

56 EpisodesProduced by RNZWebsite

A journey through the periodic table of elements with chemistry professor Allan Blackman, from AUT, and Alison Ballance

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Nitrogen - a vital powerhouse

August 15th, 2019


Most important biological molecules contain nitrogen, even though it takes lots of energy to make or break its chemical bonds, says Allan Blackman …

Niobium - useful at high & low temperatures

August 11th, 2019


Niobium is a metal that is useful at both very high temperatures, as in jet engines, and very low temperatures as a superconductor, says Allan …

Nickel - more than just a 5 cent coin

August 8th, 2019


The chemical element nickel is named after a German word for Satan or the Devil, but nickel is now more usually thought of as a North American five cent piece, says Allan Blackman in ep 52 of Elemental.

Neon - the red of neon lights

August 4th, 2019


There are no known compounds of the noble gas neon, which does however produce the brilliant crimson of red - and only red - neon lights. Ep 51 of Elemental with Prof Allan Blackman from AUT.

Neodymium - the secret behind supermagnets

August 1st, 2019


Neodydmium magnets include the strongest permanent magnets known and are found in devices like speakers & headphones, says chemistry professor Allan Blackman from AUT in ep 50 of Elemental.

The most boring chemical element

July 31st, 2019


The Elemental podcast has inspired Prof Allan Blackman from AUT and Dr Rebecca Jelley from the University of Auckland, to publish a paper in the journal Nature Chemistry - here's a quick lowdown on 'The most boring …

Molybdenum - a catalyst at bacterial to industrial scales

July 28th, 2019


Molybdenum has an essential role as a catalyst at microbial and industrial scales and is an important element in enzymes, says Prof Allan Blackman, …

Mercury - mesmerising quicksilver

July 25th, 2019


Mercury is the only metal that is liquid at room temperature and atmospheric pressure, says Allan Blackman in ep 48 of Elemental.

Manganese - the 'essential' essential element

July 23rd, 2019


The metal manganese is a vital part of photosynthesis and is found in aluminium drink cans, says Prof Allan Blackman from AUT in ep 47 of Elemental.

Magnesium - loved by everyone and everything

July 21st, 2019


Magnesium is loved by plants, folk suffering constipation and boy-racers, as Allan Blackman reveals in ep 46 of Elemental.

Lutetium - an obscure Parisian

July 18th, 2019


After a fierce struggle for naming rights, the last lanthanoid element to be discovered was eventually named after Paris, says Allan Blackman in ep 45 of Elemental.

Lithium - a mood enhancing element

July 14th, 2019


Lithium is the lightest metal, and it is used in batteries and for the treatment of bipolar disorder, says Prof Allan Blackman from AUT in ep 44 of …

Iodine - a vital trace element

June 23rd, 2019


A lack of iodine causes goitre, and seafood and iodised salt are good sources of this important trace element, says Prof Allan Blackman from AUT, in ep 38 of Elemental.

Indium - Queen of the touchscreen

June 20th, 2019


Indium is a very soft metal, and as indium-tin-oxide it is an indispensable part of the swipeability of touchscreens, says Allan Blackman from AUT in ep 37 of Elemental.

Hydrogen - 'number 1 in the Universe'

June 16th, 2019


Hydrogen is the first element on the periodic table. It is the oldest, lightest and most abundant element in the universe, but on earth it is usually …

Holmium - obscure, but an important surgical laser

June 13th, 2019


Holmium has interesting magnetic properties and is an important part of precise surgical lasers known as the 'Swiss Army knife' of lasers, according …

Helium - rare on earth but universally abundant

June 9th, 2019


Helium is the second most abundant element in the universe and possibly the most unreactive element on the periodic table, says Prof Allan Blackman from AUT, in ep 34 of Elemental.

Hafnium - helped land the first astronauts on the moon

June 6th, 2019


Hafnium is named after Copenhagen and as it has a very high melting point it was used in the thruster nozzles of the Apollo Lunar modules, according …

Gold - a most desirable noble metal

June 2nd, 2019


Gold is highly valued for its colour as well as for being malleable and ductile, and as a noble metal it is unreactive and doesn't rust, says Allan …

Germanium - important in the first transistors

May 30th, 2019


Germanium is a metalloid that was a key element in early transistors and is now used in optical fibres and infrared night vision scopes, says Allan Blackman from AUT in ep 31 of Elemental.

Gallium - mysterious case of the disappearing spoon

May 28th, 2019


Gallium is the second element named after France, is a key element in mobile phones & Blu-ray players & melts at body temperature, says Prof Allan Blackman in ep 30 of Elemental.

Gadolinium - plays a key role in MRI scans

May 26th, 2019


Gadolinium has interesting magnetic properties and is used as a contrast agent in MRI scans, according to AUT's Prof Allan Blackman in ep 29 of …

Francium - final naturally-occurring element to be discovered

May 23rd, 2019


Francium was the last naturally-occurring element to be discovered and has never been seen, says Prof Allan Blackman from AUT in ep 28 Elemental.

Fluorine - the non-stick element

May 19th, 2019


Fluorine is a highly toxic green gas that is the main ingredient in non-stick teflon coatings. In ep 27 of Elemental, Prof Allan Blackman from AUT, says that fluorine has very different properties from fluoride.

Europium - putting the security in the Euro

May 16th, 2019


Europium is named after Europe and is responsible for a forgery-busting aspect of the Euro banknote, reports Prof Allan Blackman in ep 26 of Elemental.

Erbium - through rose-tinted glasses

May 12th, 2019


Erbium is named after a chemically famous Swedish village, and adds a rose-tinted glow to the periodic table, in ep 25 of Elemental with Allan Blackman from AUT.

Dysprosium - hard to get

May 9th, 2019


Dysprosium earned its name by being very hard to separate from other elements and has become very important in electric car motors. Join Allan Blackman from AUT in ep 24 of Elemental.

Curium & meitnerium - in honour of two pioneering women

May 7th, 2019


There are only two chemical elements on the periodic table named after women: curium, in honour of Marie & Pierre Curie, & meitnerium after Lise Meitner. Allan Blackman from AUT introduces the women and their …

Copper - essential, in moderation

May 5th, 2019


Copper is a soft metal that is an essential element for enzymes and life, gives octopuses their blue blood and was often used to make coins. Allan Blackman from AUT has the lowdown on copper in ep 22 of Elemental.

Cobalt - goblin of the periodic table

May 2nd, 2019


Famous as the colour of blue glass and important in red blood cells, cobalt can form a permanent magnet and is vital for livestock. Allan Blackman …

Chromium - colourful and shiny

April 28th, 2019


Chromium is a transition metal that gives colour to precious jewels, the shine to your car fender and your kitchen bench, but can also be a killer. …

Chlorine - good for health, bad for health

April 25th, 2019


Chlorine is the culprit in the 'case of the exploding trousers'. It is also well-known as a disinfectant and chloride ions are essential for life, …

Cerium - combustible and confusing

April 21st, 2019


Cerium is the most abundant rare-earth element and pops up in self-cleaning ovens, cigarette lighter flints and spectacle glass. Find out more with Allan Blackman from AUT in ep 18 of Elemental.

Carbon - life & times of the 'king of elements'

April 18th, 2019


Carbon underpins life as we know it, fuels our world and gets its own branch of chemistry, according to AUT professor Allan Blackman, in ep 17 of Elemental.

Calcium - strength and beauty

April 14th, 2019


Calcium creates objects that are strong and beautiful, from caves, to teeth and bones, and coral reefs. Find out more in ep 16 of Elemental, with …

Caesium - the time-keeper

April 11th, 2019


A second, the basic unit of time, is defined by caesium, which is also useful for dating things. Find out more about caesium's role as a timekeeper, …

Cadmium - colour and quantum dots

April 7th, 2019


Cadmium has featured in red traffic lights, rechargeable batteries and now has a role in quantum dots, according to Allan Blackman, from AUT, in ep …

Bromine - the colour purple and poison gas

April 4th, 2019


The story of bromine is one of the color purple, the Dead Sea and an early poison gas used in the First World War, says Allan Blackman from AUT, in …

Boron - made by cosmic rays, useful in the kitchen

March 31st, 2019


Made by cosmic rays and supernovae, used in ovenproof cookware, and a key ingredient in the strongest acid ever made. Allan Blackman from AUT explores boron in ep 12 of Elemental.

Bismuth - an unusual heavy metal

March 28th, 2019


Bismuth is a heavy metal that expands when frozen, and can be used to levitate trains and soothe upset guts, as Allan Blackman from AUT explains in episode 11 of Elemental.

Beryllium - sweet and precious, but deadly

March 24th, 2019


You'll find beryllium in precious jewels and a space telescope mirror, but just don't inhale the dust - all in episode 10 of Elemental, with AUT's Professor Allan Blackman.

Berkelium and the synthetic heavyweights

March 21st, 2019


The heaviest elements on the periodic table have only ever existed fleetingly in the lab, so Allan Blackman from AUT has grouped them all together in episode 9 of Elemental.

Barium - never found on its own

March 17th, 2019


Barium is never found on its own in nature, as it loves buddying up - but a version of it is found in hospitals. Allan Blackman from AUT reveals barium's secrets in episode 8 of Elemental.

Astatine - awfully rare

March 14th, 2019


No one has ever seen astatine, which shares the distinction of being one of the rarest naturally-occurring elements on earth. Find out more with Allan Blackman from AUT in episode 7 of Elemental.

Arsenic - the well-known poison

March 10th, 2019


Arsenic is a well-known killer that was once dubbed 'succession powder'. Join Allan Blackman from AUT in 8 episode of Elemental, a journey through the periodic table.

Argon - every breath you take

March 7th, 2019


Argon is in every breath you take and its inertness is its best feature, as we discover with AUT chemistry professor Allan Blackman, in episode 5 of Elemental.

Antimony - takes lives, saves lives

March 3rd, 2019


Antimony can be used to take lives - and to save lives. Check out episode 4 of Elemental with Professor Allan Blackman from AUT.

Americium - a radioactive, domestic do-gooder

February 27th, 2019


Invented during war, radioactive americium has become a bit of a do-gooder that is in most homes. Find out more with AUT's Allan Blackman in episode 3 of Elemental.

Aluminium - light & versatile

February 24th, 2019


Aluminium is a light, well-known metal with lots of useful properties. Join AUT chemistry professor Allan Blackman for episode 2 of Elemental.

Actinium - rare & radioactive

February 21st, 2019


The first alphabetical element in the periodic table is actinium. It is a heavy radioactive element, as we discover in episode 1 of Elemental, with Professor Allan Blackman from AUT.

Tales from the periodic table

February 19th, 2019


In the prequel to Elemental, AUT's Allan Blackman introduces us to Dmitri Mendeleev and chemistry's periodic table of elements.

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