Everything around us (and within us) consists of elements. Different elements are used for everything from medical equipment, cosmetics, and electronics to cars and the garages you park them in! This infographic from AlansFactoryOutlet explores the average prices of elements and what they are used for:
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What Is the Most Expensive Element on the Periodic Table?
The price of an element depends on factors such as its abundance, how resource-intensive it is to manufacture (for synthetic elements), and the isotope. That’s why it’s difficult to truly determine the most expensive element. Elements that have been created in a lab and are nearly impossible to duplicate in any significant amount might theoretically be worth vastly more than elements abundant in Earth’s crust. For example, francium is considered one of the most expensive elements, with sources claiming a price of $1 billion per gram in theory. However, only one gram of francium has ever been observed before it disappeared within minutes of creation. That’s because francium has a half-life of only 22 minutes, making it extremely radioactive and unstable, with no known practical purpose.
What Is the Cheapest Element on the Periodic Table?
Chlorine, sulfur, and carbon (in coal form) are the cheapest elements by mass, which is fortunate because they are used for a wide array of purposes. Hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, and chlorine are the cheapest elements by volume. As far as metals, iron (Fe) is considered to be the cheapest and most functional metal. Iron is the most abundant element by mass within Earth, constituting about 80% of the inner and outer cores. Iron ore is smelted and reprocessed to produce steel, a high-strength material used in the construction of buildings and structures.
What Are the 10 Most Expensive Elements on This Chart Used For?
- Polonium-209 ($49.2 trillion/kg) — Polonium-209 is used for atomic weapons, reducing static electricity in machinery, and spacecraft and satellite materials.
- Actinium-255 ($29 trillion/kg) — Actinium-255 is used for targeted alpha-particle therapy for cancer treatment, specifically for acute myelogenous leukemia.
- Technetium-99m ($1.9 trillion/kg) — Technetium-99m is most often used for medical diagnostics. It is the most commonly used medical radioisotope in the world.
- Berkelium-249 ($185 billion/kg) — Berkelium-249 is often used for synthesizing heavier elements such as tennessine.
- Californium-249 ($185 billion/kg) — Californium-249 is used for metal-detecting, locating gold and silver ores, and finding signs of metal fatigue in aircraft.
- Cirium-248 ($160 billion/kg) — Cirium-248 is primarily used as an ingredient in the production of plutonium-238, which is a key component for artificial pacemakers and spacecraft.
- Californium-252 ($60 billion/kg) — Californium-252 is used for nuclear reactors, locating layers of petroleum and water in wells, and cancer treatment. The military uses it for the detection of projectiles and explosives.
- Curium-244 ($185 million/kg) — Curium-244 is used as a power source for radiosotope thermoelectric generators on spacecraft.
- Plutonium-239 ($6.49 million/kg) — Plutonium-239 is one of the two fissile (capable of undergoing nuclear fission) materials that are used for nuclear weapons and nuclear reactor fuel.
- Americium-241 ($728,000/kg) — Americium-241 is used for smoke detectors. A small amount of this radioactive material can be used as part of an ionization mechanism to detect smoke.
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