Bromine

Bromine is primarily found in the ocean and in brine pools as a colorless crystalline mineral salt. At room temperature it is a fuming, toxic and corrosive liquid.

Bromine has many uses in our daily lives. It spends time in hot tubs around the world. Bromine is to hot water what chlorine is to cold. It helps kill all kinds of bacteria and things we don’t want floating around in the hot tub with us. Bromine is also a primary ingredient in the fire retardant applied to children’s pajamas – over 250,000 tons of bromine are consumed in fire retardant production. Formerly used in pesticides, bromine is found to be highly reactive to sunlight and is very effective at ozone depletion. Due to this unwanted side-effect, bromine use has been abandoned as a pesticide ingredient. Amazingly enough, bromine is also found in lemon/lime soft drinks – including Mountain Dew – and is responsible for that almost glow-in-the-dark yellow/green color.

To interpret this element as a quilt, I used a Mountain Dew kerchief as the background and then a photo transfer of “baby Jeanne” in some pjs that we assume were treated with fire retardant. The spiral of wool roving “smoke” represents the noxious fumes while the white button attempts to represent the bromine tablets that are used in spas and hot tubs.

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Iridium

Iridium is one of the rarest elements in the Earth’s crust. An unusually high concentration of iridium in a geologic layer led to the theory that a huge  asteroid wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago and deposited a thin layer of iridium-rich clay around the globe. This layer now marks the boundary between the Cretaceous and Tertiary periods of time.

Multi-colored in its crystalline form, iridium is named after Iris, the Greek Goddess of the Earth and Sky, personified by the rainbow.

 

Protactinium

Of no practical use whatsoever, and one of the rarest naturally ocurring elements, Protactinium is found in minute quantities as a by-product of uranium decay. Predicted to exist by Mendeleev the missing element  91 was actually discovered in the laboratory in 1913.  In 1961 scientists in England were able to produce  about 4 ounces of 99.9% pure protactinium, although they had to process about 60 tons of radioactive waste and spend about $500,000 to get it.

With a half life of 32,760  years, Protactinium is highly radioactive and highly toxic.  Found in only 1 part per trillion in the environment, Protactinium was discovered in the laboratory and, thankfully, there it remains solely as the subject of basic research.

Erbium

Erbium’s claim to fame is two-fold. It amplifies pulses of light without having to convert those pulses into an electrical signal. This amplification virtually revolutionized the communications industry. Thanks to erbium, scientists created fiber optics which ultimately resulted in the invention of HDTV.

Erbium is also the element that makes laser eye surgery possible. Laser is an acronym for “Light Amplification by Simulated    Emission of Radiation.” A tiny (as in microscopic) bit of erbium embedded within a fiber optic cable not only strengthens the  intensity of the light, but allows it to travel in the same direction as the light that stimulated its emission, rather than backward toward its origin. Voila, the “erbium fiber amplifier” provides the direction, strength and control required for highly precise laser eye surgery.

Initially I had planned to depict erbium as images of various herbs, reflecting its pronunciation, if not its spelling. However, the properties of the element inspired other images altogether. The only thing that remains of the original concept is the green plant-infused background. Erbium’s optic properties are represented by the waves of the color spectrum while its crystal structure is reflected in the hexagon shapes. The laser beam that originates with holmium completes its journey amplified by erbium and centered on an eye ball. The pink flower vase illustrates the role erbium impurities play in creating shades of pink glass. Its role in the creation of HDTV is referenced with the black frame that surrounds the images.

 

Holmium

Named after Stockholm, Sweden, this rare earth element is prized for its ability to concentrate magnetic properties thus increasing the magnetic intensity. Used in MRI machines, Holmium boosts magnetic intensity to the level required to measure the nuclear spin within the human body. Holmium impurities in crystal create color centers that can store optical energy that can be released in the form of laser light pulse.

Before researching the history and properties of this element, the name itself brought to mind Sherlock Holmes, which inspired the iconic profile. Learning the actual background of the element, I included map images of the city of Stockholm as the background along with the Swedish flag. I considered also including the iconic IKEA logo, but instead featured a section of Scandinavian-inspired graphical fabric. I attempted to show a cross section of the skull as seen on an MRI scan, but while the computer-aided designed fabric captures the separation of the left and right hemisphere, a friend observed “that is one seriously disturbed brain.” The laser light image made possible by Holmium becomes highly intense when combined with next-door neighbor, Erbium.

Selenium

Discovered in 1817 as a byproduct of sulfuric acid production, Selenium is a non-metal, chemically related to Sulfur and Tellurium. Prior to the discovery of silicon semiconductors, Selenium was an essential material in the drums of laser printers and copiers. Currently it is used primarily in glass manufacturing and pigments.

Although toxic in large doses, selenium is an essential micro-nutrient in our diets, contributing to thyroid function and a healthy immune system. Selenium is an antioxidant found in the highest levels in Brazil nuts, tuna, crab and lobster.

Recent research has proven that high concentrations of Selenium in salt water, neutralizes the negative effects of Mercury in ocean fish, making it safe for human consumption. This fact inspired the underwater imagery and the “safe fish”.

Americium

finished block, complete with flames
Patriotic background waiting for embellishment

Americium, a “rare earth”, was first by produced and identified by Glenn Seaborg at University of California, Berkeley laboratory in 1944. Not created by nature, Americium is found in concentrated areas near now-defunct nuclear weapons testing grounds and at the sites of nuclear incidents such as Chernobyl and Three Mile Island.

Americium is the only synthetic element that you can buy at the hardware store where it is found in smoke detectors. It is very effective in this role because just 0.28 micrograms generates enough radiation to provide a constant current that flows between two tiny electrodes in the smoke detector ionization chamber. Smoke entering the chamber reduces the ionization and interrupts the current, setting off the alarm.This commercial use of the highly radioactive element is deemed safe because any alpha particles can be blocked by thin layers of common metal fabrication materials.

Since it is named after our country, my interpretation began with images that resonate as “American” such as the flag, Lady Liberty, fireworks, the White House and a red, white and blue color scheme. Those images seem to be under threat by the transparent red organza flames and the hand-dyed wool roving and cheese cloth smoke. However, as memorialized in song, the star spangled banner is undaunted and “yet waves.”