Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Countdown to Opening Night by the Elements: Number 20

Fearless had to take a break from the exhaustive work that is winding through the periodic table, but he’s back to take a crack at number 20 among the elements and the Washington Capitals…


If you look at all the elements that comprised our planet, calcium is the fifth most abundant in the earth’s crust. You would also find that it is the fifth most abundant element dissolved in seawater. Among all the metals it is not especially hard. It will react with water, but not especially vigorously. It occurs naturally as a compound (with phosphate) to form the business portion of human bones and teeth. As a compound with carbonates it can be found in limestone, chalk, or marble.

Calcium has had its applications for quite some time. In the form of lime it had been used as a building material going back several millennia. It was not isolated as an element, however, until the early 19th century. That honor went to Sir Humphrey Davy, and English chemist, who might be better known for having invented the miner’s lamp that allowed them to work safely in the presence of flammable gases. Davy made the discovery of calcium just before Jöns Jakob Berzelius (a Swedish chemist…what a surprise), who was working with calcium compounds trying to isolate the element.

By itself, calcium has few applications – an alloying agent and cheese-making among them. But calcium forms any number of compounds with a wide variety of uses: cement-making, insecticides, ice removal, a sweetening agent, propellant for rockets, textile production, blackboard chalk, paints, fluorescent lighting, fireworks, and paints among them.

It is also a necessary element for living processes, such as muscle contraction, bio-electrical processes in the body, and blood clotting, in addition to its presence in healthy bones and teeth.

What we have is an element that is not the hardest metal we have in the table, one that has limited value on its own but that can be quite useful and diverse when in combination with others. Fifth most abundant element in the earth’s crust and seas. Sounds like a defenseman who might be a bit undersized, but who might make his contributions when paired with the right partner. Good enough to get the fifth most average ice time among defensemen in the 2013 season.

Calcium… the “Jack Hillen” of the elements of the periodic table.

No comments: