About the blog: What Things Are Made Of


The United States relies on imports for dozens of commodities in everyday use. Often enough, that reliance is 100%. In this book I aim to provide awareness of the hidden geology and mineralogy behind common things, and to develop an appreciation for the global resource distribution that underpins our society. While concerns about oil import reliance are in the news every day, our needs for other minerals are comparable and are typically unknown even to technologically aware Americans.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Unobtanium comes into its own

Unobtanium, a rare organo-metallic sulfide, now exists in adequate quantities to begin to see common, everyday uses. Its geologic occurrence, near volcanic flows in organic-rich subtropical environments, has limited its use to a few research labs. New devices are beginning to make use of its special properties.

Unobtanium replaces arsenic in integrated circuits, allowing arsenic to be used in more traditional ways. In the near term, this will likely double the cost of cell phones but predictions of increased demand will drive the price down within the next 35 years. Unobtanium goes pretty far: five ounces can make 765,453 cell phones.

Even pots and pans will benefit from unobtanium coatings, because of its remarkable heat transfer properties. In nature, this quality transmits volcanic heat into groundwater, creating hot springs. Processing unobtanium with irradiated fluorspar from China enhances the heat transfer and makes it stronger.

Only a few deposits are known that are rich enough for unobtanium to be mined as a primary product. Not surprisingly, most of these deposits are in China. The Wǒ zhèngzài zuò zhè jiàn shì deposit near the Mongolian border has yielded 67% of unobtanium produced to date. A low-grade deposit on the island of Jensaiqua in French Polynesia is being evaluated for its potential.

Soon most Americans will be importing yet another commodity upon which they will rely without even knowing about it. APRIL FOOL! :)


Lucinda Bilya said...

Richard, your posts are always so informative and interesting.

I wished I could load up a cyber-bus and take people on a tour to see the things that make our lives easier.

We tend to take so much for granted - the ways things work, the origins of our traditions, and dependent we are upon the natural world around us.

Thanks again for another very interesting topic.


Richard Gibson said...

Thanks... you did check the date on this post, right? :) The name of that mine in China means "I'm making this up."

Lucinda Bilya said...

And I bit the sinker, too.

I love good jokes! Thanks for letting me know.

I did wonder about the numbers of cell phones....(rolling eyes)

Besides, what good is a good joke if no one falls for it, right?


Lucinda Bilya said...

oh...and yes, I did notice the date and wondered...