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Light-bearer. That's the meaning of the word phosphorus (P), the latest chemical element to be highlighted in this series of articles commemorating the 150th anniversary of the creation of the periodic table. Its name is no coincidence. It is a highly reactive element that spontaneously oxidises when exposed to atmospheric oxygen, producing a glow. In its honour, substances that glow in the dark without emitting any heat are described as 'phosphorescent'.

Improving the thermal insulation of a building can lead to energy savings, economic savings, and reduced CO2 emissions of 30% with regards to heat and air conditioning consumption. This reduction is even more significant when taking into account the fact that climate control represents approximately half of the total energy use for one building, while as a group, buildings represent 17% of the total energy use of a country.

The Portuguese economy is in good health. The neighbouring country has recovered from the past decade's severe crisis and paid back in full the International Monetary Fund's bailout loans. It has even done so ahead of time. Some people have even suggested it's a Portuguese economic miracle. The reconstruction of the Portuguese economy has been based on tourism and construction, though industry has played an important role as well. The Portuguese chemical industry, in particular, has displayed a remarkable export trend in recent years.

In humid, high temperature conditions, powdered and granulated products tend to cake, thus preventing the correct flowability of the powder in question. The solution to this problem is called precipitated silica (SiO2), a material made up of the two most abundant elements in the earth's crust: oxygen (O) and silicon (Si).

This post, in celebration of the International Year of the Periodic Table, is dedicated to an old acquaintance of humankind, sulphur. Even in prehistoric times, the very first humans used this chemical element, known by the symbol S, as a pigment for their cave paintings. Its presence has been constant throughout the years: Homer described how sulphur was commonly used to control pests in a text some 2,800 years old; in the XII century, the Chinese used it to create gunpowder; alchemists in the Middle Ages discovered the possibility of combining it with mercury...

For hundreds of years, humankind has been using surfactants for a wide range of processes. From the very first soaps, made by ancient civilizations with olive oil and carbonates found in ashes, to the newest bio-surfactants made through fermentation processes.

Salt, or sodium chloride, has been a prized element since the dawn of humanity. The Egyptians are believed to have been the first people to use it as a food preservative, though it has always been an article of trade and was used as currency throughout history.

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