Friday, January 26, 2007

For the Geek who Has Everything: Bismuth!

Someone on eBay is selling bismuth germanate crystals originally made for scintillation detection (for particle accelerators? Where do people get some of these things?)

It'd be just the thing for my bismuth collection. What bismuth collection, you say? Well, it is really a collection of interesting elements, but I have more bismuth items than items for any other element. I have a very nice lab-grown crystal, as well as a variety of crystals I grew myself, and some castings of different forms. I've got a small cast rod that I can hang by a thread to demonstrate diamagnetism, and a couple of discs that can be set up to levitate a small magnet, although this requires a stabilizing magnet and is tricky to set up.

I'm also looking for a small antique (the older the better) Pepto-Bismol bottle with the pink liquid still in it, but have not found that yet. A package of some kind of makeup that uses bismuth in it would be a neat addition. I've already got an antique jar of bismuth subnitruate in powder form, and a little tin of bismuth formic iodide powder. Bismuth subgallate would round out the collection, although I can't bring myself to buy a bottle of Devrom at the drugstore!

The only thing cooler would be a bismanol magnet, or even a sample of bismuth strontium calcium copper oxide, which is a high-temperature superconductor. There is another one, bismuth telluride, but that is pretty toxic, so I don't want it in my collection. I have a small sample of native bismuth, but most of the naturally occuring minerals aren't much to look at.

At some point I'll order another batch of bismuth metal to melt down and cast some pretty ingots. It's a neat demo!

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