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Carbon is, without question, the king of the elements. Not because it is the most abundant (it's the 15th most abundant in the Earth's crust, 4th in the Universe, and 2nd in the human body), but because it is capable of forming the largest number of compounds (more than 10 million are known, though this number increases by half a million each year).

Liquorice is one of the oldest ingredients known to mankind, and has always been known as more than just a simple sweet. It was thought to have healing and rejuvenating properties in ancient China, as well as in Egypt, Greece, and Rome (the Egyptians discovered its healing powers in the tomb of pharaoh Tutankhamun.) Liquorice root is highly appreciated in cosmetics, particularly for its most important active ingredient: glycyrrhizin, a triterpene glycoside (saponin) whose aglycone, the glycyrrhetinic acid or enoxolone, is sold for use in cosmetics.

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Mattresses, cushions, car seats, sponges, protection for fragile parcels, heat and acoustic insulators, floor coverings... though we may not be aware of them most of the time, polyurethanes are probably the most common polymers in our everyday lives.

Almost 14 million years ago, before the Universe existed, there wasn't anything at all: time, space, matter... nothing. Until the Big Bang happened, and with it, Lithium was created. Lithium (Li), together with Helium and Hydrogen, is one of the primary elements of the Universe, having been synthesised immediately after the Big Bang. Though it is relatively abundant in the Earth’s crust, it never occurs freely in nature but rather forms part of various compounds.

Experience: the key component in our formula.

The fifth element we're highlighting in this series of articles in celebration of the International Year of the Periodic Table owes its name to the Greek word chloro, which means yellow-green. It was discovered in 1774 by Carl Wilhelm Scheele, however, it wasn't until 1810 that Humphry Davy demonstrated that it was a chemical element. Davy was responsible for christening it in reference to its unique colour.

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