Long the pursuit of scientists the world over, a Princeton University researcher has devised a means of alchemy by transforming common elements into rare and valuable ones. Dr. Paul Chirik isn’t actually turning boring metals into gold and platinum, but his lab has figured out how to make relatively inexpensive and abundant metals like iron behave like platinum in catalytic chemical reactions, which are a major consumer of precious metals in industry. His research could make an impact across industries, making it cheaper to produce everything from textiles to cosmetics to adhesives (and that's just naming a few).
The periodic table of elements, organized thoughtfully from hydrogen to ununoctium, is a tribute to the accomplishments of modern chemistry and physics. Since Dmitri Mendeleev developed an early version of the now-ubiquitous layout in 1869, discovering a new element has been a surefire way for a scientist to grab a place in the history books--and in the pages of Popular Science.
Chemists have messed with the constituent parts of a helium atom and fooled it into behaving like it was hydrogen. This form of alchemy allows a physical test of how atomic mass affects chemical reaction rates.
The trickery involves a particle accelerator, a heavy subatomic particle and some knowledge of quantum mechanics.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.