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The Decomposition of Tungsten


    THE September issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society contains an account of the preliminary experiments made by Drs. Wendt and Irion on the decomposition of tungsten at extreme temperatures, with the production of helium, a report of which appeared in the daily press, to which reference has already been made in Nature (April 1, 1922, vol. 109, p. 418). The authors regret the exaggerated early report, given wide publicity by the press after its oral presentation, and emphasise the preliminary character of the work. They describe fully the apparatus used for attaining temperatures above 20,000° by passing heavy currents through metal wires, and state that when tungsten wires are exploded in a vacuum at such temperatures the spectrum of helium appears in the gases produced. When the explosion is conducted in carbon dioxide, 0.713 milligram of tungsten gave rise to 1.01 c.c. of gas not absorbed by potash solution. The authors remark that their method “includes factors, both of cause and of error, analogous to those operative in the voluminous and inconclusive controversy on the evolution of helium in various types of low pressure electrical discharge tubes, extending from 1905 to 1915.”

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