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IYPT Elements

IYPT 2019 Elements 050: Tin: The Oscars, tin cans, and window glass

Element 50 in our International Year of the Periodic Table series is tin. Tin was formerly used in the statuettes awarded at the Oscars, and is used to make window glass. It’s also found in eponymous tin cans.

The Oscar statuettes have been made from bronze with a gold-plating since the 2016 awards. However, prior to this, their interior was made from a bronze alloy, britannium. Bronze does also contain some tin, so the element is still found in the present-day statuettes, though the percentage tin is lower than in britannium.

Most window glass is so-called ‘float glass’, manufactured by floating molten glass on a molten metal, usually tin. This process ensures that the glass has a flat surface and a constant thickness throughout. The glass in the windows, doors and mirrors in your house will have been made using this process.

Tin cans for food are perhaps the most obvious use of tin. However, these cans are actually made of tin-plated steel, with the tin-plate protecting the steel from oxidation. The internal surface of the can is usually coated with a thin plastic layer, partly to prevent corrosion, partly to prevent tin dissolving into the can’t food content. Worldwide, it’s estimated that over 80,000 million cans are produced and filled per year.

Remember, you can keep track of all of the previous entries in this series on the site here, or on the Royal Society of Chemistry’s dedicated page.

As we’ve hit element number 50, here’s all 50 of the elements featured so far in one file to download!