The cost of different materials is determined by several factors, including supply and demand, mining costs, raw materials costs, how rare or abundant a material is, purity of the material and engineering costs (whether it is a complex material to produce).
Some of the most expensive materials are naturally occurring, while others, such as two-dimensional materials, have been developed in laboratories and are on the cutting edge of scientific progress.
On a daily basis, we interact with hundreds or thousands of materials that range in complexity from the water we drink to the OLED screens on our smartphones. The development of new materials can be linked to nearly every major advance in human history, and breakthroughs made by material scientists have profoundly affected our society and daily lives, from transportation to how we receive information.
To pick the most expensive material, 24/7 Wall St. used various scientific journals, the Defense Logistics Agency’s list of strategic materials and the USGS’s Mineral Commodities Summary 2019. Prices were estimated from various suppliers’ websites.
The most expensive material in the world is terbium. It typically comes in the form of terbium oxide, which has an average import cost of $461 per kg. A one-inch-square sheet of 1 mm-thick terbium foil can cost almost $500. Terbium is an essential component in some commercially available LED lighting fixtures. It has additional applications in high-strength permanent magnets and lasers.
Here is what Live Science has to say about terbium:
Atomic Number: 65 Atomic Symbol: Tb Atomic Weight: 158.92535
Melting Point: 2,473 F (1,356 C) Boiling Point: 5,846 F (3,230 C)
Word origin: Terbium was named for the village of Ytterby, Sweden (as was yttrium, erbium and ytterbium).
Discovery: Swedish chemist Carl Gustaf Mosander separated the mineral gadolinite into three materials, which he called yttria, erbia and terbia, in 1843. From two of these substances, he discovered erbium and terbium.
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