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Frequently asked Questions

This edition of the FAQ currently deals mainly with the boxed sets although many of the questions are relevant to the new display versions that we are now working on in partnership with Theodore Gray (see http://periodictabletable.com). We plan to add some new sections discussing these versions in due course. Please check back or in the meantime email your specific questions to info@element-collection.com.

WHAT IS THE ELEMENT COLLECTION?

WHAT IS THE PERIODIC TABLE?

HOW MANY ELEMENTS ARE THERE IN THE COLLECTION?

WHY ARE THERE SEVERAL VERSIONS?

ARE ANY ELEMENTS MISSING?

WHAT ABOUT THE RADIOACTIVE ELEMENTS?

ARE THE RADIOACTIVE SAMPLES DANGEROUS?

AREN'T SOME OF THE NON-RADIOACTIVE ELEMENTS ALSO DANGEROUS?

WHAT CHEMICAL AND PHYSICAL FORM ARE THE ELEMENTS IN?

WHAT IS THE PURITY OF THE SAMPLES?

HOW MUCH OF EACH ELEMENT DO I GET?

WHAT IF I WANT LARGER SAMPLES?

HOW ARE THE ELEMENTS PACKAGED?

WHO MIGHT BE INTERESTED IN BUYING THE COLLECTION?

WHAT ABOUT DISPOSAL?

HOW MUCH DOES THE ELEMENT COLLECTION COST?

WHY IS THE COLLECTION QUITE EXPENSIVE?

DO YOU OFFER A GUARANTEE?

ARE OTHER COLLECTION DESIGNS AVAILABLE?

TELL ME ABOUT YOUR COMPANY?

WHAT OTHER PRODUCTS DO YOU SELL?

WHERE CAN I FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE ELEMENTS?

HOW CAN I ORDER THE ELEMENT COLLECTION?

WHAT IS THE ELEMENT COLLECTION? top
The Element Collection is a boxed set of all the naturally occurring elements in the periodic table. Approximately ninety chemical substances are provided as samples that can be removed from their wood presentation case in individual sealed glass tubes to study. The elements are carefully protected for safety. The box measures 45cm x 24cm x 6cm.

WHAT IS THE PERIODIC TABLE? top
The periodic table of elements was devised by the Russian scientist Dimitri Ivanovich Mendeleyev in 1869. It is a system for arranging the chemical elements, from which everything in the universe is ultimately composed. The periodic table organises the elements into rows, columns and blocks in an ingenious way which reflects their chemical behaviour. The result is that elements vertically above or below one another in the periodic table tend to have similar chemical (and often physical) properties. The samples of each element provided in the Element Collection are arranged according to Mendeleyev's periodic table.

HOW MANY ELEMENTS ARE THERE IN THE COLLECTION? top
Several versions of the Element Collection are available, some with and some without the radioactive elements. The basic set contains 63 pure elements, 18 elements as compounds and 11 empty vials with radiation symbols. The deluxe set contains 80 pure elements including thorium and uranium, 3 compounds and 9 trace radioactive samples. The super-deluxe set contains 83 pure element samples generally filling each vial and 9 trace radioactive samples. See the question about the radioactive elements for further details of how these samples are provided.

WHY ARE THERE SEVERAL VERSIONS? top
Several versions are provided to meet the needs of different people. Some elements are very expensive and there is a trade off between the size of the samples provided and cost. The more expensive version contains larger amounts of the rare elements. Also some people may not wish to purchase the radioactive elements (even though the radiation levels are well below international safety thresholds for sending through the ordinary post). See the question on safety for further discussion. Finally 18 elements require special HAZMAT shipping despite the very small quantities involved. Replacing these with unregulated compounds (which still contain the relevant element) greatly reduces the shipping cost, particularly for international orders.

ARE ANY ELEMENTS MISSING? top
The Element Collection includes all the naturally occurring elements up to and including uranium (atomic number 92). See the question about radioactive elements for information about the form of these samples: in some cases you get only a few atoms! The collection excludes the artificially-produced transuranic elements (atomic numbers 93 to 118), which are all highly radioactive and mostly very short-lived. Almost all the transuranics are too dangerous to include in visible quantities. Sorry: no plutonium!

WHAT ABOUT THE RADIOACTIVE ELEMENTS? top
Two radioactive elements (thorium and uranium) are provided as small metal samples. Two others, radium and promethium, are presented in the form of small dabs of luminous paint. They exist in the paint in trace amounts mixed with zinc sulphide which gives off light when exposed to radiation. You can see the Ra and Pm samples glowing in the dark. The remaining seven radioactives are represented by small uranium or thorium bearing ores. These naturally occurring specimens contain complex decay chains of radioactive elements and at any given time will harbour a small quantity of the specified element. Further details, including an estimate of the number of atoms each radioactive element in the samples, are provided in the guide that accompanies the Element Collection.

ARE THE RADIOACTIVE SAMPLES DANGEROUS? top
We take safety very seriously and have consulted both the UK Health and Safety Executive and the UK National Radiological Protection board during the development of the Element Collection. All the radioactive samples are permanenty embedded in clear resin contained in sealed vessels and both the amount of radioactive materials and level of radioactivity emitted are well below relevant exemption thresholds under present legislation. The activity at the surface of the most active samples is below 1 micro Sievert which is a level commonly encountered in the basements of some houses built on granite rocks or in the passenger compartment of a transatlantic jet. It is not advisable to expose yourself to any unnecessary source of radiation. The level of exposure from normal use of the Element Collection will be well below that encountered from everyday background sources.

AREN'T SOME OF THE NON-RADIOACTIVE ELEMENTS ALSO DANGEROUS? top
Yes! Some of the more toxic elements included in the Element Collection are beryllium, arsenic, bromine, mercury and thallium. Some of the more reactive elements include rubidium and caesium. All the samples are of course sealed inside glass tubes and stored inside their wooden case, however the danger still exists that these could be broken. Where the risk is significant, the elements have been further protected by providing a second vessel within the tube. Wherever possible the safest form of the element has been used (solid beryllium pieces rather than powder for example). The small size of the samples helps to reduce risk. Clean-up instructions are provided in the event of a spill. The Element Collection is not a toy. It should be kept in a safe place. Children should not be allowed to handle any of the hazardous samples (indicated in the accompanying documentation) unsupervised. When you purchase the Element Collection you must first return a declaration stating that you will use the product responsibly. We have produced a risk assessment document which is available on this website.

WHAT CHEMICAL AND PHYSICAL FORM ARE THE ELEMENTS IN? top
The non-radioactive elements are presented in their pure uncombined form: the majority are metals, two are liquids (bromine and mercury) and ten are gases. Where several forms of the element exist (allotropes) the safest or commonest is generally provided. An example is phosphorous which is supplied in the non-toxic red allotrope. See the question about the radioactive elements for more information about how they are presented. The physical form of each element varies greatly: most are presented as irregular lumps, a few as foil strips and a few as solid melted pellets. Powders are generally avoided. We have gone to considerable length to source the most attractive forms of each element. Note that in the basic version of the sets, compounds are provided instead of the pure elements for 18 samples to avoid the expense of HAZMAT shipping. In the deluxe version, 3 samples (the halogens F, Cl, Br) are similary substituted. For example silver promide is provided instead of bromine.

WHAT IS THE PURITY OF THE SAMPLES? top
The elements are generally provided at a purity of 99.9% (3N) or better. An exception is the trace radioactive elements as explained elsewhere in this FAQ. Copies of the certificates of analysis can be provided on request.

HOW MUCH OF EACH ELEMENT DO I GET? top
This varies widely depending on the cost of the material and which version of the Element Collection you decide to buy. In the basic version, approximately 1g each of the commoner elements is supplied, which gives a reasonable sample occupying approximately the bottom fifth of the sample tube. With the very costly elements we provide a smaller fragment that can be readily viewed with the naked eye, to see its properties and to allow comparison with other elements. For example, one of the more expensive elements is the rare earth Lutetium which costs over $100 per gram from laboratory suppliers. For Lu in the basic set we supply one or more metal fragments that together cover an area of at least 9 square mm and weigh around 0.25g. In the deluxe set we provide larger samples, generally weighing at least 1g even for the most expensive elements such as the platinum group metals. In the super-deluxe version, all vials are completely filled, except where safety considerations dictate that samples should be smaller. Full details can be provided on request.

WHAT IF I WANT LARGER SAMPLES? top
Some people may wish to order the deluxe version or super deluxe version of the collection with larger samples of the rarer elements. These versions are of course more expensive! We also offer individual element samples for sale. A catalogue is available to download from this website.

HOW ARE THE ELEMENTS PACKAGED? top
Each element is sealed in an individual glass sample tube with a black cap that is permanently bonded on and must not be removed. These small bottles measure approximately 35mm in height and are 18mm in diameter. Air-sensitive elements are ampouled under argon gas and sometimes also clear mineral oil. A few dangerous elements are further protected in a second glass tube within the bottle. The chemical symbol for each element is attractively engraved onto its bottle cap and colour-coded to indicate the group in the periodic table to which the element belongs. The sample tubes are housed in individual compartments in a felt-lined wooden box measuring approximately 40cm x 20cm x 5cm. The box has a hinged lid with dual catches and is specially manufactured for us using an attractive pale wood.

WHO MIGHT BE INTERESTED IN BUYING THE COLLECTION? top
The Element Collection is particularly suitable for school chemistry departments as the specimens can be passed individually around a class. Scientists and those involved in science will find the Element Collection a valuable resource and a lasting source of interest. The presentation set makes a handsome gift and will appeal to those, such as metallurgists and people in the microelectronics industry, involved in working with the elements. Lastly the Element Collection will appeal to everyone who has a sense of curiosity about the natural world.

WHAT ABOUT DISPOSAL? top
The Element Collection is designed to last indefinitely. In the unlikely event that it needs to be discarded, it is important that prevailing environmental regulations are followed with regard to disposal of the toxic and radioactive samples. Everyone purchasing the Element Collection must sign an agreement taking responsibility for ultimate safe disposal.

HOW MUCH DOES THE ELEMENT COLLECTION COST? top
The basic set (63 pure elements, 18 compounds, 11 empty engraved vials with radiation symbols) costs £475. The deluxe version of the Element Collection (80 pure elements, 3 compounds, 9 trace samples) costs £875. The super-deluxe version with generally full 7ml vials (83 pure elements, 9 trace samples)costs £1,975. All prices are ex VAT. Shipping and insurance for delivery within the UK costs £25. You will find price conversion to Euros and to US Dollars on our website. See the special section on shipping for information about ordering internationally.

WHY IS THE COLLECTION QUITE EXPENSIVE? top
Producing the Element Collection is not easy! Many of the elements themselves are expensive (far more costly even than gold). A more significant factor is the special handling and packaging that is required, especially for toxic substances and the numerous elements sensitive to air. To help people on a tight budget, we do offer a version without the radioactive elements at a lower price.

DO YOU OFFER A GUARANTEE? top
The Element Collection may be returned (in the condition in which it was received) for a full refund (less P&P) within seven days of purchase. Any samples which deterioriate within one year of sale may be returned for free replacement. Spare samples can be purchased individually.

ARE OTHER COLLECTION DESIGNS AVAILABLE? top
We have also produced a unique clear resin display in which the elements are arranged according to the periodic table. It has the advantage that all the samples are simultaneously visible, while being protected in a robust matrix. It makes an impressive display for an office wall, board room or desktop. Please see this website for further details and to view a photograph. We also produce large interactive periodic table displays suitable for public exhibition in museums and science centres.

TELL ME ABOUT YOUR COMPANY? top
The Element Collection is produced by RGB Research Ltd, a subsidiary of The Red Green & Blue Company Ltd (RGB). The company was founded in 1987 and specialises in science-related projects. Over the years RGB has been responsible for numerous documentary films including several episodes of the BBC science series Horizon, public displays and educational projects including a BAFTA-winning natural history website, a wide range of interactive CD-ROMs and DVDs, and a series of exhibits at the UK's leading hands-on science centre Explore-at-Bristol and at the British Museum in London.

WHAT OTHER PRODUCTS DO YOU SELL? top
If you decide to buy the deluxe or super-deluxe version of the Element Collection which include samples of the radioactive elements, you might also consider purchasing a hand held radiation monitor (Geiger counter) to test the radioactive samples. We offer via our webstore an excellent battery-operated model that accurately measures a wide range of radiation and is useful for measuring background radioactivity around the home or workplace. Please see the website for further details.

WHERE CAN I FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE ELEMENTS? top
There are numerous excellent periodic tables available on the internet, for example http://www.webelements.com and http://periodictabletable.com. We also highly recommend the book "The Elements: Nature's Building Blocks" by John Emsley published by Oxford University Press. This wonderful and highly readable book covers every element in great detail. It is also available from our web store.

HOW CAN I ORDER THE ELEMENT COLLECTION? top
Orders can be placed using a credit card via our webstore or by telephone on 020 8490 1788 or by emailing us at info@element-collection.com.

 

 

The Element Collection/Element Displays © The Red Green & Blue Company 2005, all rights reserved.
Last updated 27-Jul-05