Monday, May 19, 2014

What Elements Has the Baran Lab Used, as Elements?

Last week, the internet (or at least a couple of people) were abuzz asking which elements have been used as elements. I decided to poll the lab for funsies - here's what everyone had to say.

Now, it's worth noting that not everyone quite understood the question. There were a few people who claimed they've used boron... and fluorine... when I'm pretty sure they've used boron trifluoride etherate. I guess that really just means you sort of have to take these data with a grain or ten of salt. I also didn't get into lanthanides or actinides for some reason, probably because I typed out every individual element into SurveyMonkey and didn't want to keep going.

Of the 35 people in the lab, 28 responded to my survey. The most common responses were hydrogen and oxygen (26/28, 93%), but I suspect everyone in the lab has used argon, since it's what we use for inert atmospheres. According to my survey, nobody in the lab has used neon, gallium, germanium, arsenic, krypton, rubidium, strontium, niobium, technetium, cadmium, tellurium, tantalum, rhenium, bismuth, polonium, astatine, radon, francium, or radium. The least-used elements (and again, I'm not sure if everyone understood how to correctly answer the survey) were antimony, gold, and thallium (!) with only one person having used each.

There weren't many surprising trends, I guess. Of the halogens, bromine (23/28, 82%) and iodine (22/28, 79%) were widely used, with chlorine (13/28, 46%) a respectable third. Like I said, four people claim to have used fluorine, but I am skeptical of that.

From the first row transition elements, there aren't any surprises either. Zinc (19/28, 68%) was the most widely used, likely receiving a generous boost from our group's work in zinc sulphinate chemistry. Copper (14/28, 50%) and iron (13/28, 46%) were also widely used. Once again, a few people have used vanadium and chromium metal - or so they say.

There's not much more to this, I guess. If anyone wants to take a look at the full data set, feel free to email me at brrosen at, and I'll send you a link to view the data.


  1. I don't know... I don't think that Oxygen, Hydrogen, Nitrogen, Iodine, Bromine, Chlorine and Fluorine would even count. They all exist normally as diatomic molecules.

    Sodium, Argon and Magnesium were the ones that I immediately thought of.

    1. Technically, you're 100% correct. But it's more fun to look at the whole periodic table!

    2. You would have to exclude sulfur too, as it is used in a polyatomic form. By this logic, you could argue for the exclusion of elements partaking in metallic bonding too and so the question essentially becomes, "how many noble gasses have you used." But I think that it is pretty well agreed that "elemental form" means the form(s) the element takes absent atoms of different elements.