You’d think that the “hard part” of the collection is finding and paying for some of the more expensive elements. What amazed me is that some of the more expensive or scarier elements are the easiest to obtain. Gold is around $30/gram and can be bought from most coin shops. Uranium (depleted anyways) can be found for $30-40/gram.
Turns out, the hard part is figuring out how to store elements.
Radium Watch Hands Temporarily Stored in Vials
My adventures here started when I decided my next elements should be osmium and iodine. Let’s start with Osmium. Osmium is a shiny, slightly blue metal with an almost bizarre super power – it’s oxides can evaporate at room temp and the fumes cause blindness. While it is likely okay to simply store it in a glass vial with a lid, I don’t want someone (drunk friend, friend’s kid, etc) to open it up to take a look and get hurt.
Iodine is a different monster. While it is caustic, this element’s magic power is that it likes to escape…from anything. If I just stick it in a glass vial, it will end up seeping through the glass or cap into the surrounding area, staining all surfaces it touches purple, red-orange, or blown depending on what it contacts.
In both of these cases, I would like to isolate the material in a glass ampoule before placing it in a glass vial. In the case of the osmium, this should keep oxygen off of the surface and osmium oxide inside. For iodine, we are playing the numbers game.
Simplified, if some percentage of the particles can make it through the glass ampoule and another percentage of those can make it out of the vial, then only a small bit can make it through both. For example, if 2% can make it out of the ampoule per year and 4% make it out of the vial per year, then we’d only have 2% * 4% = .08% would escape both together. (Disclosure – Yes, I know about vapor pressure and concentration differentials, but I’m not going to setup and solve a multi order differential equation for this post, heheh).