A fascinating fact about H (hydrogen) is that scientists estimate that hydrogen makes up over 90% of ALL the atoms in the universe.
In fact, 75% of the sun is made up of hydrogen and every second the sun consumes 600 million tons of its hydrogen atoms to make helium atoms and energy. 🌞 That energy radiates out from the sun in all directions as electromagnetic photons. These beautiful pictures from NASA are clouds of hydrogen gas floating about in the universe!
A fascinating fact about Helium is that it’s inert, meaning it doesn’t react with any other atoms.
With only 2 protons in its nucleus, helium is very light. Being inert and light, helium is the perfect gas for party balloons . However, because helium is SO light, most of it just floats up into the sky and into outer space, making it extremely hard to find on earth.
However, scientists have recently found lots of helium emerging from under Yellowstone National Park. ⛰ The helium is coming from deep under the earth where uranium atoms are continually decaying and releasing two protons from their nucleus. Those two protons then pick up two electrons as they ascend through cracks in the earth’s crust, thus creating helium atoms!
By the way, all that radioactive decay of uranium and other elements is what’s heating the interior of the earth 🔥
Did you know that by adding a few atoms of lithium to flimsy aluminum foil it will turn the foil into a mixture of metals called an “alloy,” strong enough for building jet airplanes? ✈️
It’s been known for thousands of years that sprinkling in a second metal atom makes strong alloys, but why? Because the lithium atoms act like speed bumps and prevent rows of aluminum atoms from easily rolling over each another and letting the metal bend.
Beryllium is used in the making of items like cell phones, missiles and aircrafts. 🚀
Did you know that Mother Nature uses beryllium to make fine gemstones? 💎 Beryl is a crystal containing beryllium bonded to aluminum and silicate, but when a few atoms of chromium or vanadium happen to be included with beryl, beautiful green emeralds form. A few atoms of iron turn beryl into magnificent crystals of light-blue aquamarine, and a few atoms of manganese turn beryl into stunning pinkish-orange crystals of morganite!
Boron is one tough and versatile element. This element exhibits some properties of metals and some of nonmetals. Adding boron to steel produces a metal stronger than steel. Add boron to glass and you can make the glass resistant to heat, like the brand Pyrex. Boron nitride (boron bonded to nitrogen) is harder than a diamond, yet extremely lightweight. Boron’s high strength, light weight, and resistance to heat makes it the perfect element for building space shuttles and other aerospace vehicles. 🚀
Boron’s not done there! Bonded to atoms of oxygen and hydrogen, it forms boric acid, a mild antiseptic and insecticide. Bond it to sodium instead of hydrogen and you get a familiar cleaner, Borax. To top it off, plants can’t live without boron. It is a micronutrient essential for plant growth. 🌿
Did you know that carbon is a primary component of all life on Earth? 🌏 Carbon is the most versatile element in the periodic table, in large part because a single carbon atom can bond to up to four other atoms. When carbon atoms bond to each other, depending on how they are combined, they can form slippery soft graphite to open locks, incredibly hard diamonds 💎, super strong sheets of flexible graphene that conduct electricity, and ridiculously tiny nanotubes far stronger than steel.
These nanotubes can be perforated with holes tiny enough to permit water molecules to pass through and someday allow us to obtain fresh water from the ocean. Thank goodness for carbon!
Did you know we can’t live without nitrogen? Almost 80% of the air we breathe is made up of nitrogen molecules, yet most of this nitrogen is immediately exhaled as we cannot absorb it in its gaseous form. 😚💨
Nitrogen moves from our atmosphere in a cycle that converts it to a form that can be absorbed by plants through their roots. 🌲 In this cycle, bacteria helps to break the strong triple bond that makes nitrogen inert and convert it to nitrogen-containing molecules that plants can use!
Have you ever wandered into the geology section of a natural history museum and noticed that every rock specimen has oxygen in it? You can thank cyanobacteria, the first bacteria to develop a way to capture the energy in sunlight and turn it into chemical energy, in other words, photosynthesis. 🌿
They used the energy in sunlight to break water molecules apart into hydrogen and oxygen atoms which they discarded into the air. All that oxygen found its way into minerals in and under the surface of the earth so that today there isn’t a mineral in the ground that doesn’t have oxygen bonded to it. ⛰
Now If only we could figure out a way to split water molecules as effortlessly as cyanobacteria, we’d have an unlimited supply of hydrogen to satisfy all our energy needs, and enough oxygen to purify our water supply, manufacture untold numbers of chemical compounds, and even power interplanetary space travel! 🪐💫
Fluorine is a small atom but despite its size, fluorine is able to attract electrons with more force than any other atom in the periodic table. When fluorine atoms bond to long chains of carbon atoms (called fluorocarbons), no molecule can break the chain or even stick to them. These long-chain fluorocarbons turned out to be the perfect molecule to coat pots and pans for easy cleaning (called “Teflon).”
Mesh fabrics made of fluorocarbons are waterproof because the empty spaces between the fine fibers is small enough to block water droplets from passing through. However — and this is key – the empty spaces between the fibers are large enough to allow molecules of perspiration to pass though. This mesh fabric even blocks wind by redirecting air molecules trying to pass through. By allowing fabrics to be waterproof and wind-proof, and still allow perspiration to escape, the newly-named “Gore-Tex” fabric, invented in 1976, spawned an explosion in the clothing and sportswear industry, as well as outdoor tents, and even space suits. ☔️ 🏔 ⛺️
Did you know that neon is not the only element used in “neon lights?” Neon gas is the only one that gives off reddish-orange light ❤️, but other elements, like helium, give off orange light 🧡, argon – lavender light 💜, and mercury – blue light 💙.
The reason each element in the glass tube gives off a characteristic color is that when the electrical current flowing through the glass tube transfers its energy to electrons orbiting each nucleus, the excited electrons jump to a higher, more energetic orbit. When the electrons then drop back down to a lower energy orbit, they give off the difference in energy between the higher and lower orbits in the form of a light ray of one particular color. That energy difference varies slightly between different elements, hence the different colors emitted by each element!
Sodium is on the move – in batteries!
Batteries provide an electrical current by removing electrons from atoms in the battery’s anode (-), and allowing the electrons to flow through a wire toward the battery’s cathode (+) where the electrons reattach to positive ions looking for electrons.
Lithium works well as a source of electrons, but lithium is expensive, not readily available, and difficult to get at, even when lithium deposits are discovered underground.
Sodium, in contrast is readily available and cheap, but has not served well as cathode material because there’s been no effective way to store the sodium ions once the electrons have left the cathode. Things have changed though. Prussian Blue, a pigment made up of iron atoms surrounded by “cages” of cyanide ions, is being redesigned to capture the sodium ions and store them while they’re being recharged with electrons.
So while sodium atoms may be too large to pack into tiny batteries for cell phones and the like, sodium may prove to be perfect for situations where size doesn’t matter, like storing solar energy captured by photovoltaic cells. Moreover, being less willing than lithium atoms to shed their electrons, sodium-based batteries are much less likely than lithium-based batteries to catch fire.

Did you know that without magnesium, we’d have no food? That’s because at the center of every molecule of chlorophyll is a magnesium atom, and without that magnesium atom, chlorophyll would have no way to capture the energy in sunlight and turn it into chemical energy.

 Besides plants, all animals, including humans, depend on magnesium for protein and DNA synthesis, muscle contraction, nerve function, regular heart beats, and many other internal functions.

Magnesium’s most common industrial use is to strengthen aluminum. When atoms of magnesium are sprinkled into aluminum to form an alloy of aluminum, the magnesium atoms act as “speed bumps.” When outside forces try to bend aluminum by forcing rows of aluminum atoms to roll over each other, the magnesium atoms stand in the way.

When it burns, magnesium gives off a bright white light, ideal for fireworks, flares, and special effects like lightning