This Friday sees the return of Elements at Wellcome Collection – this time on gold, silver and bronze (tin and copper). I also returned to Andrea Sella‘s lab at University College London to film short pieces about each element and find out what makes each of them special.
The video above is our examination of tin. It cries, and it makes other beautiful sounds in the form of bells and church organ pipes, but it is also susceptible to a strange ‘disease’: tin pest. Andrea has been hard at work these past few months trying to recreate tin pest and shows us how he did it.
Although it didn’t make the cut, Andrea also pointed out that tin is used in our mobiles phones in its oxide form as part of the display. Cassiterite is the main source of tin, and in ancient times there was enough of this being mined in Cornwall for Britain to become known as the “tin islands”, the Cassiterides. But today, most of our tin comes from Central Africa, especially the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The huge amounts of money involved, said Andrea, are fueling civil war in the DRC. Perhaps, therefore, we should be rethinking this relationship with tin.