In this day and age, we use metals in nearly every aspect of our lives, and it is hard to imagine a time without their impact on our society. We use them for anything from industrial piping and flanges, general manufacturing, electrical components, all the way down to our use of sodium in our food. (YES, SODIUM Chloride = Salt, contains a soft, silvery White metal called Sodium.) It can be an odd feeling when you realize metals have impregnated themselves in almost every part of our lives.
So where did all these different metals come from? What are they ultimately made from? Simply put, all elements (Not just metals) came from the complex processes that make up the life cycle of a star, and ultimately, they are nothing but a conglomerate of general atomic materials: Electrons, Neutrons and Protons. Elements are distinguishable by the number of protons they contain, While the number of electrons and neutrons can vary for samples of the same element. For example, Iron or FE (used in the creation of carbon steel or stainless steel for pipe Flanges) is the 4th most common element on the Earth and regardless of the number of electrons or neutrons it will always have 26 protons. As far as where they came from?
Billions of years ago when the Universe was in its infancy, the first clouds of helium and hydrogen atoms Condensed until their own gravity proved too much causing them to implode, forming the first stars. During the birth and life of all stars, they reach temperatures hot enough to break down atoms into their base atomic materials and fuse them into different atoms that are heavier and larger. Starting with Hydrogen we go to Helium, then Lithium, then Carbon and so on… As stars reach the end of their life they catastrophically explode, leading to a supernova, spewing the heavier elements that have been formed into the universe.
In Earth’s case, when our sun was in the process of forming, most of the hydrogen and helium went into our sun’s creation while the rest of the dust and gaseous material formed a spinning molten mass around the new star. Eventually the mass cooled and coagulated into the planets and other features of our solar system, including all the metals we process and use on this planet!
With this new Perspective it is hard not to be amazed by even the simplest things in our World. Everything from Industrial Flanges to the Salt we put in our food, to even our own bodies are made from the Stars and are truly unique.
“The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.”
― Carl Sagan, Cosmos