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Purchasing Pure Elements

  1. May 8, 2007 #1
    I want to know how one purchases pure elements. Like Caesium or Neon or Chlorine.

    Do you need licence to purchase some elements? Or do you need to be affiliated to some sort of organization?

    Where is a site that has prices for the elements?

    Just curious how one gets a hold of these things.....

    (Also -- don't feel like making a new thread since i'm rarely on -- what kind of damage would someone take if they dropped Caesium in water and stood right next to it?)
  2. jcsd
  3. May 8, 2007 #2


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    Staff: Mentor

    You are going to have to be a whole lot more specific - All elements are different. You can easily buy a bottle of helium at any party store, but are unlikely to get your hands on a hunk of plutonium....

    Cesium is highly reactive in water. Beyond that, there isn't much that can be said about what happens if you drop some in water.
    Last edited: May 8, 2007
  4. May 8, 2007 #3


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    Science Advisor

    As Russ said, it is going to depend a lot of what specific element(s) you want to purchase (and also the purity). The ease of purchase, availability, cost, …, of purchasing elements is going to vary a lot…it is easy to buy elemental Iron, but hard to buy elemental Fluorine.

    It would depend on how large of a piece of Cesium was used. But I would say that it if it was any significant quantity of Cs, then the (not-too-wise) person who dropped it in and stood next to it would be burned (possibly both chemically and due to the heat released by the reaction).
  5. May 9, 2007 #4
    Many elemental substances can simply be purchased from a chemical supply company like Flynn Scientific or one of the others. Obviously depending on what element you are looking for, somethings require special licenses to transport/handle.

    Even a tiny amount of Cs in water is extremely destructive. if you were standing next to it you would very likely be killed. Also, the atmospheric moisture is enough to set it off and it must be handled in a vaccum container or something similar. If you want to see an Alkali metal explode in water, use Sodium, it is still a spectacular demonstration but is FAR safer than anything more reactive. I think the british television show "Brainiacs" did an episode on Alkali Metals, you can probably find it on a google video search.
  6. Sep 13, 2007 #5
    The Dangers Of Cesium.

    One gram of pure Cesium has been estimated to have the same destructive force as a military grade depth charge. Military Grade Depth Charge = what the military used in WWII to sink German U-Boats. You would be completely obliterated and smeared across the walls of what ever room you were doing this in. It is obviously not advised to do such a thing. Rubidium is safer. One gram of Rb is like a hand grenade going off. It's less dangerous but still provides a wonderful explosion.
  7. Sep 13, 2007 #6
    This should help clarify things: :wink:
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2014
  8. Sep 13, 2007 #7


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    Drat! Now I can't find it. There's a blog out there somewhere of one man's trials and tribulations in assembling the largest collection of pure elements in the world, including his fascinating accounts of travels to palces like Russia to collect samples, and encounters with various American safety organizations.

    Anyway, here is a link to the man who created the Periodic Table table. There are lots of stories there about his fun with Sodium and Cesium and such, inlcuding debunking what may very well be the demos talked about in the above posts.
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