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As I hold a silvery metal wire in the steaming hot water, drops of liquid metal form and fall into a shining puddle at the bottom of the glass. What was a thick solid wire is now a pool of molten metal. No soldering irons, no flames or torches, just a cup of hot water.
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Since the liquid metal is only 144° Fahrenheit (62° Celcius), we can pour it into plastic molds designed for making candles or soap.
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In the picture below, about a foot of the wire sits next to a ruler. The wire comes in a thick vinyl tube, so it looks bigger in the picture than its actual 1/8 of an inch thickness. A few inches were melted and poured into the plastic mold. A white plastic coated paper clip was inserted into the mold before the metal solidified, just for fun.
tin. but is about twice as expensive. and bismuth. 25% lead. such as its ability to stick to glass. called Wood's Metal. Indium is not a household material. bringing the minimum cost to several hundreds of dollars. Cadmium and lead are toxic metals. This allows you to "solder" things directly onto glass. By using non-toxic metals like indium. and can be hard to find. and indium. Indium is a metal that looks like silver. to faithfully reproduce items as fine as fingerprints.5% cadmium. There are many alloys that melt at low temperatures. They are used in fire sprinkler systems in office buildings.Click on image to see a closeup view The metal is very good at filling all the nooks and corners in a mold. Below are some of the items we cast in metal. 12. It melts at a lower temperature as well. It melts at a temperature of 158° Fahrenheit (70° Celcius). They are also . Fusible alloys are used in some fairly common items. Field's metal is safe to use as a toy. Click on image to see a bigger picture What is that stuff? The metal is a mixture of bismuth. These are calledfusible alloys. and made it available to experimenters in our catalog in affordable quantities. You may have heard of a famous one. tin. and to make a good metal-toglass seal for vacuum work. For that reason. and lets the water spray out. we have made up a batch of Field's Metal and cast it into wires. Commercial suppliers usually have minimum orders in the range of ten pounds or more.5% tin. and 12. Wood's metal is a mixture of 50% bismuth. using only hot water. We call it Field's Metal. where the metal melts if the temperature gets too high. It has special uses in scientific apparatus due to its interesting properties.
The atomic weight of lead is 207. This compound would have a lower melting point than either of the pure elements. the compound formed does not bind to itself as easily as the pure elements do.2 + 3 x 118. there are four lead atoms.8° F (271.71and 3 x 118. Other times.71 ------ Thus the chemical formula for the compound is PbSn3.2. In electronics. some of them will react together to make compounds. A bit of solid metal holds a plastic flag down against a spring. A eutectic alloy is one that has a sharp melting point.6° F (327. This would raise the melting point. such as one to one. Compounds consist of exact proportions of one atom to another. One chemical melts at one temperature. the ratios would be: 207.6° C). and will stay in the mixture as a pure element. That is why mixures have a wider melting point. For every antimony atom. How does it do that? The melting point of an alloy is often quite different from the melting points of the pure metals from which it is made. Lead melts at 620. one of the prefered solders used is a eutectic mix of lead and tin. The melting points are: Lead (Pb): 327° Celcius Antimony (Sb): 630° Celcius Alloy (SbPb4): 246° Celsius In the eutectic alloy of magnesium and lead.71. rather than a simple mixture of elements.78% lead 207.2 -----------------= 36. This implies that it is a chemical compound. and the others melt at higher temperatures. A pure substance is either an element. Tin melts at 447. and the spring pops the flag up into view.5° C). Only when all of them have melted do you get a true liquid. Compounds are not limited to two elements.8° C). Mixtures melt over a range of temperatures. Pure substances have a sharp melting point. where the elements are bound together in strict proportions. Bismuth melts at 519. The atomic weight of tin is 118. Another eutectic alloy is a mixture of lead and antimony. Any excess of one element over another will not react. If there were one atom of lead for every three atoms of tin. Sometimes two elements combine to form a compound that binds tightly to itself.3° C). there is just about 63% tin.used in the pop-up timers in turkeys. two to one. Sometimes many elements bind together into a single compound. and 37% lead. there are two atoms of magnesium for each atom of lead: Lead (Pb): 327° Celcius Magnesium (Mg): 651° Celcius Alloy (PbMg2): 530° Celsius . three to two. Indium melts at 312. or a chemical compound. the metal melts. By weight. etc. When the temperature is just right. In a mixture of elements. What makes a substance melt at a given temperature is how strongly the molecules of the material bind to one another.8° F (156.8° F (231. It melts at 361° Fahrenheit (183° Celcius).
The compound is Bi8Pb5Sn4. . (especially outside of the United States). and should not be considered a toy. This is the form we need (unless you can obtain your lead and tin as separate items).8° C). Solder is usually made in the eutectic proportions. in the form of solder. lead. Lead and tin are not hard to find separately. For toy purposes. use Field's Metal instead. we will be using a slightly less common form of solder. and you will have an alloy that melts at 203° Fahrenheit (95° Celcius).53% bismuth. 32. and tin.92% tin. and 40% tin. so this alloy should be handled with care. It is preferred to lead shot because it is not toxic.60% lead. we supply it in our catalog. But some solder is available in the opposite ratio -. This gives you a mixture that is not eutectic. you can weigh out equal parts of the solder and the bismuth. and doesn't pollute the water where duck hunters shoot. This will still melt in near boiling water. or in the nearly eutectic form of 60% tin. For our purposes. Lead is toxic.55% lead. If you have the 40/60 tin/lead solder. 40% lead. The eutectic form of the bismuth-lead-tin alloy is 52. Because some of our readers were having a hard time finding bismuth. and should not be used near food. and melt them together. by weight. and 14. you can weigh them out and melt them together. Bismuth can be found at sporting goods stores in the form of shot for use in shotguns. If you have the separate metals.Make your own fusible alloy An easy fusible alloy can be made from bismuth. but they are particularly easy to find together. so the melting point is a range from 203° F (95° C) to 219° F (103.