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Iridium A Heavy Dense Metal On The Periodic Table

It takes processing a million tons of rock to get a little bar of iridium

You must use an iridium crucible for high temperature

or for growing crystals

So heavy, hard and rigid it has special properties

The highest melting point of any metal

Learning about spark plugs with a tiny iridium tip

It is found in low concentrations on earth, but in higher quantities on asteroids and meteorites.

Lewis Alvarez says there is a think layer that is rich in iridium from the asteroid that hit the earth and killed the dinosaurs. 

A new method for converting polyethylene into liquid fuel involves iridium.  Although iridium is scarce, polyethylene litters the Earth.

We produce 100 million tons of plastic each year. Composed of carbon and hydrogen atoms linked together in long chains, polyethylene is a remarkably inert substance, meaning it doesn’t react with much of anything, and therefore doesn’t degrade in the environment.

Burning plastics takes energy, causing atmospheric toxic pollution.


Zheng Huang, an organic chemist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, has spent four years developing a different approach published in Science Advances, Huang and his colleagues describe their method for degrading polyethylene at temperatures as low as 150 degrees Celsius, by adding an organometallic catalyst—a small, commercially available organic molecule doped with the metal iridium—to the reaction.

The catalyst weakens bonds responsible for polyethylene’s stiff structure, accelerating its breakdown into a liquid product. However, this method has only been testing on a small sampling and not with the amount required to use at industrial levels. 

Huang would like to find a less rare, less expensive metal in this chemical reaction. 


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