While we often associate metal with silverware or tools, metals have many unusual uses as well. Metal is processed into all shapes and sizes. Solid pieces, foil and even metal particles are vital to technology, medicine, the military and countless others. Here are a few examples metal’s many unique uses.
Killing Germs and Microbes
Some metals, most notably copper, have natural antimicrobial and antiseptic properties. This means that they’re the only solid substance that can actually kill germs. Copper, silver and gold are all highly valued in the medical field for this reason; in fact, most germs die within an hour if they are on copper. This is why some hospitals use solid copper for all of their sinks, valves, and anything else that can be metal. Many medical instruments are made of silver and gold for similar reasons.
When NASA first endeavored to put man on the moon, they needed to devise a way to keep outer space’s unwelcoming conditions from killing astronauts before they ever made it there. The solution they found was unexpected: gold foil. Not only does it shield astronauts from the sun’s raw, unfiltered light and searing heat, it also blocks radiation from leaking inside of space suits. This is also why gold is a popular material when buildings need windows that reflect sunlight.
Did you know that many kinds of clothing include bits of silver in them? Silver is an antimicrobial as we mentioned before, so clothing companies like to put silver in socks and shoes. This is because that funky smell that shows up after wearing socks and shoes for too long is, in fact, caused by microbes. By adding something called nanosilver to clothing and shoes, which is essentially tiny silver particles, they make it so that they smell better for longer without having to wash them.
Missiles, Planes, Satellites and More
One of the rarest metals on the planet, beryllium, has an incredible number of uses. It is the progenitor of several precious stones, including cat’s eye, emerald and aquamarine. It is also used in many military applications; its unique properties make it vital to the construction of missiles, satellites, high altitude planes, military vehicles and even a number of nuclear devices. Without beryllium, much of the military’s technology wouldn’t exist.
We’ve already stated how metals are used in the general medical arena, but this one is definitely big. Platinum, one of the rarest metals on earth, contains a compound called cisplatin that is used in the world’s top cancer medications. Cisplatin basically works by “tying up” cancer cells’ DNA, keeping them from growing. It’s not a perfect solution, but it is an effective one. While the normal cure rate for cancer is a mere 10 percent, medications containing cisplatin have an astounding cure rate of 85 percent. Think about that the next time you buy platinum jewelry.