The History of Metals - Visual Capitalist
Connect with us

Mining

The History of Metals

Published

on

The History of Metals

The History of Metals

We have documented the history if individual metals before and we have also visualized their annual production. However, we have not seen all of the metals on one timeline before such as in this infographic.

Worth noting is gold’s prominence ever since the beginning of history. Because the yellow metal is one of the rare elements that can be found in native form (such as nuggets), it was used by the earliest of our ancestors.

Comparatively, it is only recently that the technology has advanced to allow us to discover or extract the rest of the metals on today’s periodic table. For example, even though we knew of titanium as early as 1791, it was relatively useless all the way up until the 1940’s because of its metallurgy. In the 20th century, scientists advanced a way to remove the impurities, making it possible to get the strong and hard titanium we know today.

Another standout fact is that it took all the way until the early 19th century for two very important elements to be discovered. Both are not found free in nature very often and thus slipped detection for many centuries. Silicon, which actually makes up 26% of the earth’s crust, was discovered in 1823. Then in 1827, aluminum was discovered – we now know today that it is the most common metal in the earth’s crust (it’s actually 1200X more abundant than copper).

Original graphic from: Makin Metals

Subscribe to Visual Capitalist
7 Comments

Energy

Visualizing U.S. Consumption of Fuel and Materials per Capita

Wealthy countries consume large amounts of natural resources per capita, and the U.S. is no exception. See how much is used per person.

Published

on

Visualizing U.S. Consumption of Fuel and Materials per Capita

This was originally posted on Elements. Sign up to the free mailing list to get beautiful visualizations on natural resource megatrends in your email every week.

Wealthy countries consume massive amounts of natural resources per capita, and the United States is no exception.

According to data from the National Mining Association, each American needs more than 39,000 pounds (17,700 kg) of minerals and fossil fuels annually to maintain their standard of living.

Materials We Need to Build

Every building around us and every sidewalk we walk on is made of sand, steel, and cement.

As a result, these materials lead consumption per capita in the United States. On average, each person in America drives the demand of over 10,000 lbs of stone and around 7,000 lbs of sand and gravel per year.

Material/Fossil FuelPounds Per Person
Stone10,643
Natural Gas9,456
Sand, Gravel7,088
Petroleum Products 6,527
Coal 3,290
Cement724
Other Nonmetals569
Salt359
Iron Ore239
Phosphate Rock 166
Sulfur66
Potash49
Soda Ash36
Bauxite (Aluminum)24
Other Metals 21
Copper13
Lead11
Zinc6
Manganese4
Total 39,291

The construction industry is a major contributor to the U.S. economy.

Crushed stone, sand, gravel, and other construction aggregates represent half of the industrial minerals produced in the country, resulting in $29 billion in revenue per year.

Also on the list are crucial hard metals such as copper, aluminum, iron ore, and of course many rarer metals used in smaller quantities each year. These rarer metals can make a big economic difference even when their uses are more concentrated and isolated—for example, palladium (primarily used in catalytic converters) costs $54 million per tonne.

Fuels Powering our Lives

Despite ongoing efforts to fight climate change and reduce carbon emissions, each person in the U.S. uses over 19,000 lbs of fossil fuels per year.

U.S. primary energy consumption by energy source, 2021

Gasoline is the most consumed petroleum product in the United States.

In 2021, finished motor gasoline consumption averaged about 369 million gallons per day, equal to about 44% of total U.S. petroleum use. Distillate fuel oil (20%), hydrocarbon gas liquids (17%), and jet fuel (7%) were the next most important uses.

Reliance on Other Countries

Over the past three decades, the United States has become reliant on foreign sources to meet domestic demand for minerals and fossil fuels. Today, the country is 100% import-reliant for 17 mineral commodities and at least 50% for 30 others.

In order to reduce the dependency on other countries, namely China, the Biden administration has been working to diversify supply chains in critical minerals. This includes strengthening alliances with other countries such as Australia, India, and Japan.

However, questions still remain about how soon these policies can make an impact, and the degree to which they can ultimately help localize and diversify supply chains.

Continue Reading

Subscribe

Popular