king of nowhere

best storage medium for metal vials

23 posts in this topic

metal vials have traditionally been filled with alcohol, supposedly for the purpose of helping preservation of the metals. As a chemist, I've been thinking of how much sense it makes, and now I just need to vent out what I got.

Metals oxydize in the presence of oxygen. We tend to think water is also needed, because rusts forms with water, but rust is an hydroxide; oxydation can well go without water, though water speed up the process by providing an electrolithic solution where all manners of redox processes can take place.

Under that premise, storing metals in alcohol is  not effective. Oxygen, as a nonpolar molecule, is actually more soluble in alcohol than in water (by about 5 times, according to what I could google). Alcohol mixes well with water, meaning it will readily absorb water from the atmosphere. So, metals should degrade faster in alcohol than dry. However, considering that allomancers need some fluid to help them swallow the metals, alcohol is probably still better than water, because alcohol by itself does not react with metals, nor does it provide much electrolytes to help speed up redox reactions.

Steris used cod liver oil in the vials she carries for wax, and that's an interesting choice. Oxygen is about as soluble in oil as it is in alcohol, but oil will not absors water from the atmosphere. Its apolar nature make it bad at stabilizing charged intermediates, so it should also slow down redox reactions a tad. It's probably a good choice. In fact, oil is akin to petroleum ethers, which are used to store alkali metal away from oxygen. So it seems the increased solubility of oxygen doesn't play a large role.

ultimately, though, the biggest factor in conserving vials is just how much oxygen they contain. gases have low density, so the amount of oxygen in a vial is tiny. If the vial is accurately stoppered, possibly sealed with vax, then metals won't degrade any further once the initial oxygen has been consummed.

Finally, wax putting whisky in his metal vials seems a terrible choice. Whisky is still about 60% water, and water can eventually corrode metals alone. Plus it contains all kind of organic molecules, some of which may actually help the oxydation process. To his credit, he probably drank them fast enough that they never had much time to rust.

To sum it up:

- alcohol is a mediocre solvent for storing metals.

- oil is actually a very good choice, though Steris doesn't know enough chemistry to appreciate the fact

- whisky is a terrible choice, practically as bad as water

-  the most important precaution is to keep the vial airtight anyway

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I don't get the impression that the alcohol is there to prevent oxidation. Like, the vials were used quickly enough that they weren't likely to oxidize. The alcohol is just to make it easier to swallow, and good enough for the short amount of time, since water would be a really bad idea.

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This is an awesome analysis, and I really have nothing to add to it but... 

1 hour ago, king of nowhere said:

If the vial is accurately stoppered, possibly sealed with vax,

Hmmmm

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5 hours ago, king of nowhere said:

sealed with vax

Is that where it's been hiding?

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@king of nowhere

As a fellow chemist I must say that is an acute analysis and something I have never really thought about.

There is just one point I disagree in. Metals can actually react with alcohols. For one metals are often added to reaction mixtures to fasten the reaction by acting as a lewis acid thereby polarizing bonds and making other reactions occur at reasonable conditions. More often than not the metal is in the process complexed with oxidizing agents like water, alcohols or ethers. Which means that Wax whisky is even worse as a storage medium since it contains exactly those organic materials that would like to do such reactions.

Second in anorganic chemistry there are a number of metal complexes with alcoholates therefore providing a further option for reaction though without a catalyst or basic reaction conditions those reactions would probably take to long to form to be of relevance. The wrong solution pH, organic component or trace bioorganic catalysts could however provide that catalyst. (I'm looking again at whisky as a solution or worse beer). Those complexes can also form as an intermediary state to another more stable complex (for example with water) which also would fasten the reaction speed.

Lastly strong reducing metals form metal alcoxides with alcohols. Which is a rather fast and exothermic reaction which occurs for example with alkali metals though other metals are also possible depending on the conditions.

To conclude: The only reason storing those metal flakes in alcohol works is because they put in enough of the metals that they can't react enough before they use them and secondly they are using them fast enough.

Oils seem like a more sensible solution though most edible oils are ester bonds, which can be cleaved to form an alcohol and an organic acid.  Thus getting us back to the original problem though a further step is needing giving the metals more time in the respective solution.

Ethers seem like a better alternative though from the top of my head I do not know one ether that isn't toxic in the needed amounts. And of course some metals also form complexes with ethers (aluminium for example, which also likes to form complexes with alcoxides by the way).

Furtermore many reaction pathways to complexes occur preferably without oxid. Making airtight vials a non-issue for those cases.

Lastly I would like to add that the metals used in allomancy would behave quite chemically differently in the same solutions. While gold is more prone to form Au(I)-complexes, Iron would have more problems with the rusting conditions discussed above. Aluminium would be sensible to pH increases while many of the alloys would break apart under the wrong conditions. Ideally you would therefore have a different solution for each metal in which that metal or that alloy is most stable.

15 hours ago, RShara said:

I don't get the impression that the alcohol is there to prevent oxidation. Like, the vials were used quickly enough that they weren't likely to oxidize. The alcohol is just to make it easier to swallow, and good enough for the short amount of time, since water would be a really bad idea.

If the alcohol is only to make swallowing easier why is water bad. A relativly pure alcohol is actually quite difficult to swallow. They are actually bitter and burn (much worse than a high percent liquor) for one. Also they are toxic shortening an allomancers life expectancy with each vial. (Think about all those alcoholic problems but much faster since the concentration is so high) I guess pewter could help with the second problem but that only helps mistborn and pewter mistings/twinborns.

 

 

Edited by Rhapsody
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This is pretty interesting stuff! (And side brag, my daughter is thinking of being a chemistry major in college!)

It was normal (except for Zane) to burn away one's metals every day before sleeping, as having metals in your body for too long is poisonous. Because carrying a significant amount of metal on one's person would be a risk to be used as an anchor by Lurchers, Coinshots, or Mistborn, and because being an Allomancer at all (and what kind) is the kind of thing kept as a secret trump card, it makes a lot of sense for Allomancers to unobtrusively carry around a minimal amount of flaked or powdered metal that can be quickly ingested.

Allomantic metals, especially the alloys that needed to be "allomantically correct" for best effect, were typically sourced in the form of bars that could be shaved/ground into powder, or pre-shaved pouches of (dry) powder. This is how Vin receives her experimental alloy of duralumin from the metallurgist at the beginning of The Hero of Ages, and is also how she takes some of the "Eleventh Metal" (which Kelsier left to her in bar form) before heading to Kredik Shaw to confront the Lord Ruler.

The powder only needed to be put into vials, on a relatively ad hoc basis, for ready consumption in the near future. For which a liquid suspension makes perfect sense, as it's hard to swallow a handful of dry powder of any kind (and quite probably painful in the case of metal shavings), and you'd want to get all the contents of the vial in a single gulp.

So, why alcohol? I get the sense that it wasn't meant to be very strong alcohol, because what Coinshot or Mistborn would want to get drunk before flying? Wax using his favorite Roughs brand of whiskey is something of an affectation, but that doesn't mean it's a vial of full strength whiskey: more likely, it's a dilution thereof (a Steel Highball, if you will).

I'd think in Era 1, considering the conditions we see the skaa living in, it was originally used for the same reason that (weak) beer was safest to drink during the Middle Ages in Europe: contagion and disease spread by dirty water, where alcohol would sterilize anything ELSE in the water. Even if by Era 2 they have processes to make pure distilled water easy for anybody to get, there'd be about 1,500 years of tradition behind using an alcohol suspension, so people would be used to the taste of it. (Plus, the cachet of that's what the Lord Mistborn, the Survivor, and the Ascendant Warrior all did, how cool is that?)

The only hitch to this would be something like this scene in The Hero of Ages, when Spook is guided by Ruin posing as Kelsier to using pewter for the first time, as he looks inside a desk drawer on the second floor of a burning building that used to be owned by a Pewterarm:

Quote

He reached for them eagerly. They were the kind of vials used by Allomancers to store metal shavings. With trembling fingers, Spook picked one up, then it slipped free of his numb fingers. It shattered. He stared at the liquid that had been inside - an alcohol solution that would keep the metal flakes from corroding, as well as help the Allomancer drink them down. ... Dully, Spook took another vial.

So, this passage tells us that there were multiple vials of pewter dust stored in vials of an alcohol solution and kept in a drawer, and that Spook thought it was to "keep the metal flakes from corroding" as well as to make it easier to ingest. Which, as you fine chemists have pointed out, isn't going to be true for a long term, or equally true for all metals.

But hey, what does Spook know? He's an 18 year old skaa urchin raised on the streets who can't even talk right half the time. Wasing the wrong of the why as a boy!

Edited by robardin
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2 hours ago, Rhapsody said:

If the alcohol is only to make swallowing easier why is water bad. A relativly pure alcohol is actually quite difficult to swallow. They are actually bitter and burn (much worse than a high percent liquor) for one. Also they are toxic shortening an allomancers life expectancy with each vial. (Think about all those alcoholic problems but much faster since the concentration is so high) I guess pewter could help with the second problem but that only helps mistborn and pewter mistings/twinborns.

I was going off the OP's statement, since my chemistry is sadly pretty flimsy. That alcohol prevents oxidation a bit more than water? Or did I misunderstand?

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3 hours ago, Rhapsody said:

@king of nowhere

As a fellow chemist I must say that is an acute analysis and something I have never really thought about.

There is just one point I disagree in. Metals can actually react with alcohols.

 

You are totally right, I didn't consider alcholates and I absolutely never thought of complexes. Guess I'm getting rusty (I wasn't stored in a stoppered vial filled with oil). Though I would surmise that alcohol reactions with metals should at least be somewhat slower than water reactions, as far as carrying the first oxydation step (and after that, the metal is already ruined allomantically).

1 hour ago, robardin said:

So, why alcohol? I get the sense that it wasn't meant to be very strong alcohol, because what Coinshot or Mistborn would want to get drunk before flying? Wax using his favorite Roughs brand of whiskey is something of an affectation, but that doesn't mean it's a vial of full strength whiskey: more likely, it's a dilution thereof (a Steel Highball, if you will).

I'd think in Era 1, considering the conditions we see the skaa living in, it was originally used for the same reason that (weak) beer was safest to drink during the Middle Ages in Europe: contagion and disease spread by dirty water, where alcohol would sterilize anything ELSE in the water.

The only hitch to this would be something like this scene in The Hero of Ages, when Spook is guided by Ruin posing as Kelsier to using pewter for the first time, as he looks inside a desk drawer on the second floor of a burning building that used to be owned by a Pewterarm:

Your theory holds some merit, but I remember kelsier also mentioning that the alcohol is to prevent metal oxidation. Too lazy to find the reference right now.

But now that I'm thinking, did they actually have oil in the final empire? Olives and most of the flowering plants from which you get oil may not have existed at the time. I can't recall oil being mentioned a single time, and while there probably were some seeds that could yield oil when crushed, it may have been too few and not appetizable enough to justify the process. It may well be that in the final empire they used alcohol because that's all they had and then it became traditional.

If they really had no oil in the final empire, I'm going to add it to the list of reasons I'm glad I don't live there.

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35 minutes ago, king of nowhere said:

Your theory holds some merit, but I remember kelsier also mentioning that the alcohol is to prevent metal oxidation. Too lazy to find the reference right now.

But now that I'm thinking, did they actually have oil in the final empire? Olives and most of the flowering plants from which you get oil may not have existed at the time. I can't recall oil being mentioned a single time, and while there probably were some seeds that could yield oil when crushed, it may have been too few and not appetizable enough to justify the process. It may well be that in the final empire they used alcohol because that's all they had and then it became traditional.

If they really had no oil in the final empire, I'm going to add it to the list of reasons I'm glad I don't live there.

FWIW, I found the passage with Spook and the vials of pewter via a Kindle e-book search of the original Mistborn trilogy for "alcohol", which search didn't turn up any other context explaining or thinking about why alcohol was used for metal vials. There are only ten (10) total occurrences of the word in all three books, and usually it's referring to wine or ordinary alcohol consumption, except for that bit from Spook and in the Ars Arcanum:

Quote

BURN (ALLOMANCY): Allomancers utilizing or expending the metals in their stomachs are said to be "burning" them. They must swallow a metal, usually in an alcohol suspension, then Allomantically metabolize it to access its power.

There's no other in-world explanation for the conventional use of alcohol, so we're free to justify it how we think makes sense.

As for oils in the Final Empire, I just searched for "oil", "fry", "fried", and "grease" in the Era 1 trilogy e-book, and only found mention of lamp oil and "oiled" walking boots and of food being greasy (skaa gruel, roast drumsticks served to Vin and Elend by Cett), but that's all possible from animal fat. So as horrible as it seems, it's possible that there were no plant oils in the Final Empire after Rashek re-engineered the world.

Edited by robardin
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7 hours ago, robardin said:

Allomantic metals, especially the alloys that needed to be "allomantically correct" for best effect, were typically sourced in the form of bars that could be shaved/ground into powder, or pre-shaved pouches of (dry) powder. This is how Vin receives her experimental alloy of duralumin from the metallurgist at the beginning of The Hero of Ages, and is also how she takes some of the "Eleventh Metal" (which Kelsier left to her in bar form) before heading to Kredik Shaw to confront the Lord Ruler.

if I remember correctly it was a couple of vials and a bar of the alloy that she received. But I could be wrong here and I am too lazy to look into it now.

7 hours ago, robardin said:

So, this passage tells us that there were multiple vials of pewter dust stored in vials of an alcohol solution and kept in a drawer, and that Spook thought it was to "keep the metal flakes from corroding" as well as to make it easier to ingest. Which, as you fine chemists have pointed out, isn't going to be true for a long term, or equally true for all metals.

But hey, what does Spook know? He's an 18 year old skaa urchin raised on the streets who can't even talk right half the time. Wasing the wrong of the why as a boy!

I think since spook was a skaa urchin raised on the streets one would assume someone else taught him those reasons, since he otherwise would probably have no idea what corroding means. Some of the allomantic metals are usually coroded (meaning it is the normal state in which they know them) or their oxids (the results of rusting and coroding) have the same color and texture (thus making it for a non-specialist imposible to distingish between pure and partially coroded metal). Since Spook knows that metals are stored to keep them from corroding it would seem someone with a bit more metalurgic knowledge told him that.

7 hours ago, robardin said:

So, why alcohol? I get the sense that it wasn't meant to be very strong alcohol, because what Coinshot or Mistborn would want to get drunk before flying? Wax using his favorite Roughs brand of whiskey is something of an affectation, but that doesn't mean it's a vial of full strength whiskey: more likely, it's a dilution thereof (a Steel Highball, if you will).

I'm not sure they really diluted them so much. For one as mentioned above they stored in alcohol to prevent oxidation. That purpose would be distroyed if they diluted too much. Secondly if you think about the amounts of liquid you usually have in a vial, the alcohol level wouldn't be high enough to really make them drunk. And lastly most people in Ireland or Scotland would probably turn in their graves if you told them to dilute their whisky =)

7 hours ago, RShara said:

I was going off the OP's statement, since my chemistry is sadly pretty flimsy. That alcohol prevents oxidation a bit more than water? Or did I misunderstand?

ok now I understand. The alcohol probably prevents oxidation a bit better than water, but allows for other problematic reactions.

6 hours ago, king of nowhere said:

Though I would surmise that alcohol reactions with metals should at least be somewhat slower than water reactions, as far as carrying the first oxydation step (and after that, the metal is already ruined allomantically).

It actually depends on the metal and conditions. Aluminium reacts rather rapidly in basic conditions for example. And the reactions of alkali metals with water can be explosive. Some reactions also start slowly but react explosivly once a certain threshold is reached.

6 hours ago, king of nowhere said:

But now that I'm thinking, did they actually have oil in the final empire? Olives and most of the flowering plants from which you get oil may not have existed at the time. I can't recall oil being mentioned a single time, and while there probably were some seeds that could yield oil when crushed, it may have been too few and not appetizable enough to justify the process. It may well be that in the final empire they used alcohol because that's all they had and then it became traditional.

If they really had no oil in the final empire, I'm going to add it to the list of reasons I'm glad I don't live there.

I don't think they had plant oils. Most of those are rather difficult to aquire since you need a lot of plants to get a reasonable amount of oil. But there are a couple of animal fats and oily products that could be used.

I also think they had oil lamps. (The oil for those was most often aquired from animal fats)

As far as I remember they also hat soaps, which means an esterification process should be possible for them, therefore obtaining industrial fats and oils.

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13 hours ago, Rhapsody said:

 

As far as I remember they also hat soaps, which means an esterification process should be possible for them, therefore obtaining industrial fats and oils.

soap was made since ancient times using ash (relatively rich in carbonate) as an alkali catalyst on ffaty substances. I think they boiled fat and ash, but I may be wrong on the specific details. Anyway, having soap doesn't imply any other capacity to obtain fats and oils industrially.

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1 hour ago, king of nowhere said:

soap was made since ancient times using ash (relatively rich in carbonate) as an alkali catalyst on ffaty substances. I think they boiled fat and ash, but I may be wrong on the specific details. Anyway, having soap doesn't imply any other capacity to obtain fats and oils industrially.

That is true but using soap and a trialcohol they could make industrial fats and there were a couple of different techniques to obtain different fats and oils as well as organic solvents even in medival times.

We do not know enough about the knowledge of the FE to say if they could or could not produce oils that are edible and versatile enough to store the different metals in.

Edited by Rhapsody
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From a mechanical standpoint (only) the Alcohol would be a superior liquid suspension to oil or even water by virtue of being less viscous and thus less prone to leaving behind noticeable volumes in the vial, and metal with it.  Tactically you'd want to be as sure as possible that you were going to shoot the whole vial as quickly as possible and get every last lifesaving speck.  That being said, since they are chemically problematic, I cant think of options; Era1 was just on the brink of canning technology so I think they were still a bit shy of the manufactured medicinal pills that I fully expect to see in Era3. 

 

Does allomancy require the metals in your digestive tract, or just within the body in general?  I wonder if you can snort dry metals for Allomancy? 

 

PS Not a chemist, you are all wizards and alchemists to me, and I bow before your mastery of the arcane lore.  

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29 minutes ago, Quantus said:

From a mechanical standpoint (only) the Alcohol would be a superior liquid suspension to oil or even water by virtue of being less viscous and thus less prone to leaving behind noticeable volumes in the vial, and metal with it.  Tactically you'd want to be as sure as possible that you were going to shoot the whole vial as quickly as possible and get every last lifesaving speck.  That being said, since they are chemically problematic, I cant think of options; Era1 was just on the brink of canning technology so I think they were still a bit shy of the manufactured medicinal pills that I fully expect to see in Era3. 

 

Does allomancy require the metals in your digestive tract, or just within the body in general?  I wonder if you can snort dry metals for Allomancy? 

 

PS Not a chemist, you are all wizards and alchemists to me, and I bow before your mastery of the arcane lore.  

Interesting point but I think from the viewpoint of an Era 1 allomancer the volume left inside (even with an oil) would be negligable as they would ingest far more than what would be left inside (except for some especcially viscous substances). Furthermore as far as we know they do not use saturated solutions but a suspension of the flakes. There would therefore always be residue metal shaving left in the vial because of their adhesion to the vial walls even if more of the liquid would be consumed.

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16 hours ago, Rhapsody said:

if I remember correctly it was a couple of vials and a bar of the alloy that she received. But I could be wrong here and I am too lazy to look into it now.

I think since spook was a skaa urchin raised on the streets one would assume someone else taught him those reasons, since he otherwise would probably have no idea what corroding means. Some of the allomantic metals are usually coroded (meaning it is the normal state in which they know them) or their oxids (the results of rusting and coroding) have the same color and texture (thus making it for a non-specialist imposible to distingish between pure and partially coroded metal). Since Spook knows that metals are stored to keep them from corroding it would seem someone with a bit more metalurgic knowledge told him that.

I'm not sure they really diluted them so much. For one as mentioned above they stored in alcohol to prevent oxidation. That purpose would be distroyed if they diluted too much. Secondly if you think about the amounts of liquid you usually have in a vial, the alcohol level wouldn't be high enough to really make them drunk. And lastly most people in Ireland or Scotland would probably turn in their graves if you told them to dilute their whisky =)

I checked the book and no, she receives a box containing "a small pouch of metal dust and a thin silvery bar".

I've got a collection of Scotch and Irish spirits on a shelf somewhere and have even done a tour of two whisky distilleries in Scotland, so I totally get where you're coming from in not wanting to think of a diluted whiskey suspension!

But this thread was begun with the fact even pure alcohol would not really be facilitating long-term storage of metal against corrosion, and meanwhile, other than that one case of Spook's mental POV, we have no evidence that that's WHY Allomancers are using "alcohol suspensions" in the vials - the vials are meant for short-term use.

Here's another question: just how big are those vials, and how much solution is in them (are they filled completely, or partway)?  Only then could we address the question of how much alcohol (by volume) is in them, right? My point being, if a standard Allomantic vial was the equivalent of a shot glass (1.5 fl. oz.), I can't picture a maybe 100 pound woman like Vin downing 2 or 3 vials to replenish her duralumin stacked metals in the middle of a fight with koloss and Inquisitors, and having that be the equivalent of taking three shots of whiskey in 10 minutes.

And 1.5 fl. oz. seems pretty small to me; they are large enough capacity that Vin could demand that Kelsier drink half of one, leaving half for her, when he tested her. Can you imagine trying to drink half a shot?

While I guess burning pewter would help there, the point is, they wouldn't do that if they didn't have to use stuff that strong, and as far as I can tell, they don't.

Edited by robardin
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6 minutes ago, Rhapsody said:

Interesting point but I think from the viewpoint of an Era 1 allomancer the volume left inside (even with an oil) would be negligable as they would ingest far more than what would be left inside (except for some especcially viscous substances). Furthermore as far as we know they do not use saturated solutions but a suspension of the flakes. There would therefore always be residue metal shaving left in the vial because of their adhesion to the vial walls even if more of the liquid would be consumed.

That was part what I was getting at, there will always be some amount of adhesion to the vial walls, and a thinner suspension should minimize that loss.  I tend to agree that the practical difference would likely be negligible, but 1) depending on the metal even small traces may be horrible costly, and 2) to battling Mistborn of Era1 those tiny traces could mean the difference between life & death, at least at a battlefield superstition level, which would be likely motivation enough.  The other part was pure dosing speed and efficiency perspective, in that you dont want an oil that would get too thick, especially if you are venturing outside the basin where temperatures can start getting colder. 

 

 

Sooooo, what does the group think the best next gen suspension medium would be?  We're looking for chemically inert, easy flow even at low temps, smooth on the pallet and non-intoxicating, and minimal losses to the container.  Ideally readily available without modern Industrial levels of processing.  Alternatively, do you think Era2 has what it takes to make safe and effective swallowed pills, or even chewables? Or split the difference and encase metal pellets in some organic coating (pickering emulsion style) to protect it from the suspension fluid and float larger flakes comfortably?

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24 minutes ago, Quantus said:

Sooooo, what does the group think the best next gen suspension medium would be?  We're looking for chemically inert, easy flow even at low temps, smooth on the pallet and non-intoxicating, and minimal losses to the container.  Ideally readily available without modern Industrial levels of processing.  Alternatively, do you think Era2 has what it takes to make safe and effective swallowed pills, or even chewables? Or split the difference and encase metal pellets in some organic coating (pickering emulsion style) to protect it from the suspension fluid and float larger flakes comfortably?

I like how you're thinking

Though "chewable metal" could be awful, as anyone who has fillings in his teeth can you tell you!

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I imagine vials as being the size of a finger. So, a bit less than a shot glass. But that's just how I imagine them. I don't think we were ever given a size. Still, a vial lasts for a while so you don't need to drink more, except for fast burning pewter, which solves the problem. the discovery of duraluminium increased the amount of vials a mistborn needs, but again that implies a pewter burner.

Oh, and I did some check of the first mistborn. I was sure kelsier told that alcohol is for preserving metals, but I could not find any reference to it. I also checked the annotations for the first 8 chapters

14 minutes ago, Quantus said:

Sooooo, what does the group think the best next gen suspension medium would be?  We're looking for chemically inert, easy flow even at low temps, smooth on the pallet and non-intoxicating, and minimal losses to the container.  Ideally readily available without modern Industrial levels of processing.  Alternatively, do you think Era2 has what it takes to make safe and effective swallowed pills, or even chewables? Or split the difference and encase metal pellets in some organic coating (pickering emulsion style) to protect it from the suspension fluid and float larger flakes comfortably?

I would hazard fluorocarbons. Some of the most inert substances known, not-toxic, non-reactive. They have high density and low viscosity, which helps to suspend more of the metal and minimize the amount that remains stuck in a vial. They dissolve large amounts of gases, but that's not a concern as long as the vial is stoppered. They are not cheap, but neither terribly expensive.

Only problem is that there are concerns that they may actually be dangerous in the long term. Fluorocarbons in the body get stuck inside the cell membranes and in fatty tissue, instead of staying in the blood and getting eventually excreted. So they will stay in the body for decades, and it's possible that this accumulation would eventually result in healt damage.

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7 minutes ago, robardin said:

I like how you're thinking

Though "chewable metal" could be awful, as anyone who has fillings in his teeth can you tell you!

Because I totally didnt chew tin foil like gum as a child, that would never have occurred to me (#thisismelying). 

 

I was actually thinking more like gummy bears or some other edible binding agent that would coat the sharp edges.  They have chewable Rolades now for the elderly, seemed like it might be preferred in combat over dry pills.  Something akin to a sort of beeswax paste, wouldnt be too horrific to swallow methinks.

2 minutes ago, king of nowhere said:

I would hazard fluorocarbons. Some of the most inert substances known, not-toxic, non-reactive. They have high density and low viscosity, which helps to suspend more of the metal and minimize the amount that remains stuck in a vial. They dissolve large amounts of gases, but that's not a concern as long as the vial is stoppered. They are not cheap, but neither terribly expensive.

Only problem is that there are concerns that they may actually be dangerous in the long term. Fluorocarbons in the body get stuck inside the cell membranes and in fatty tissue, instead of staying in the blood and getting eventually excreted. So they will stay in the body for decades, and it's possible that this accumulation would eventually result in healt damage.

Ya, I was about to say, Ive done some work in plants that produce florine based chemicals, and some of those (and their intermediates and byproducts) are some of the more horrifically toxic stuff Ive come across. The end product is phenonimal, but Im not sure Id want to get near a 19th century equivalent plant. 

 

Edited by Quantus
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1 hour ago, robardin said:

I checked the book and no, she receives a box containing "a small pouch of metal dust and a thin silvery bar".

ah then it was dust. I just remembered there was something other than the bar in that box and simply assumed it was vials. Didn't actually think of metal dust =)

1 hour ago, robardin said:

I've got a collection of Scotch and Irish spirits on a shelf somewhere and have even done a tour of two whisky distilleries in Scotland, so I totally get where you're coming from in not wanting to think of a diluted whiskey suspension!

Yeah another whisky lover. I also did a tour of Scotland visiting a distillery in the process. And we have a small collection of Irish and Scottish spirits at home as well. Though by now some of them are getting scarce since they are from the scotland tour mentioned above. I think most of my souvenirs I brought back home were whiskys =)

1 hour ago, robardin said:

Here's another question: just how big are those vials, and how much solution is in them (are they filled completely, or partway)?  Only then could we address the question of how much alcohol (by volume) is in them, right? My point being, if a standard Allomantic vial was the equivalent of a shot glass (1.5 fl. oz.), I can't picture a maybe 100 pound woman like Vin downing 2 or 3 vials to replenish her duralumin stacked metals in the middle of a fight with koloss and Inquisitors, and having that be the equivalent of taking three shots of whiskey in 10 minutes.

I always imagined them like relativly small reaction tubes =). So they would contain about 5 to 10 ml of liquid (something like a fifth to a third of an fl.oz I believe) depending on the diameter. I think one could take a couple of those in a short while without getting drunk. And for most metals drinking one vial in the morning to have the metals avaiable would be enough. Only with flaring pewter or using duralumin would you have to use more than one vial in a fight and then the pewter and the added adrenalin would help negate the toxic effects of alcohol.

1 hour ago, Quantus said:

That was part what I was getting at, there will always be some amount of adhesion to the vial walls, and a thinner suspension should minimize that loss.  I tend to agree that the practical difference would likely be negligible, but 1) depending on the metal even small traces may be horrible costly, and 2) to battling Mistborn of Era1 those tiny traces could mean the difference between life & death, at least at a battlefield superstition level, which would be likely motivation enough.  The other part was pure dosing speed and efficiency perspective, in that you dont want an oil that would get too thick, especially if you are venturing outside the basin where temperatures can start getting colder. 

You are right though metals seem pretty common in the mistborn world. I remember reading that scadrial was really rich in metals somewhere. For the second we have no idea how much metall you need to ingest to get a significant power output. We know Vin could use the small amounts she ingested because of using metal dinnerware but that she had basically no real power and had to store up for days and weeks to be able to do something with her "luck". So I'm not sure how significant those adhesions are. But a less viscous solution would definitly minimize the amount of adhesions. Another possiblity would be to search for a liquid in which the metals are actually soluble. (I'm no anorganic chemist so without some research I'm not sure how soluble metals are in different liquids, but it should theoretically be possible)

1 hour ago, Quantus said:

Alternatively, do you think Era2 has what it takes to make safe and effective swallowed pills, or even chewables? Or split the difference and encase metal pellets in some organic coating (pickering emulsion style) to protect it from the suspension fluid and float larger flakes comfortably?

I think some pills should be possible. Encasing something in a gellike substance and drying that to harden in a pill is actually not really difficult. Even Era 1 should be able to do that if they researched it. Era 1 would have more problems getting the raw materials for the pills since those are mostly plant materials but it should be possible.

47 minutes ago, king of nowhere said:

I would hazard fluorocarbons. Some of the most inert substances known, not-toxic, non-reactive. They have high density and low viscosity, which helps to suspend more of the metal and minimize the amount that remains stuck in a vial. They dissolve large amounts of gases, but that's not a concern as long as the vial is stoppered. They are not cheap, but neither terribly expensive.

Only problem is that there are concerns that they may actually be dangerous in the long term. Fluorocarbons in the body get stuck inside the cell membranes and in fatty tissue, instead of staying in the blood and getting eventually excreted. So they will stay in the body for decades, and it's possible that this accumulation would eventually result in healt damage.

As you said there is no telling how many problems those accumulated fluorocarbons would make.

Secondly I'm not sure about swallowing those. They are pretty hydrophobic which could make digestion difficult. Depending of course on how far into the body the metals need to come. Most fluorocarbons are used as coatings for a reason. I for myself don't fancy trying to eat Teflon =)

Though I'm working in another field so my knowledge on fluorcarbons and their possibilities is limited.

 

Another question I would be interested in is if the metal has to be in its elemental form to be used? Or do the respective metal ions also work? That would make it a lot easier since you can dissolve metal ions in polar liquids. They would also be more resistant to oxidation (depending on the oxidation state of the ion),

That also raises the question in what form the metals are used. If they are used in their elemental form, some of them should degrade over the time they are in the stomach because of the hydrochloric acid. If they are used in their ion form it should take some time for the full amount of metal to become avaiable (after ingesting it in elemental form).

I think they can only be used in their elemental form and Brandon simply didn't talk about the degration because it wasn't important to the story, but it would be interesting to know.

 

Edited by Rhapsody
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2 hours ago, Rhapsody said:

Another question I would be interested in is if the metal has to be in its elemental form to be used? Or do the respective metal ions also work?

No. Otherwise simple clay and many minerals would block allomancy. Much of their mass is aluminium. Neither can you burn the iron or zink in your enzymes. They have to be metal.

I suppose the alcohol is kind of a sacrifical lamb. They hope that the oxygen that does get in oxidizes the alcohol rather than the metal. I am afraid that tightly sealing a vial on Scadrial used to be not that easy. The plants had no flowers during the Final Empire. Hence there were no bees. Hence there was no wax.

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19 minutes ago, Oltux72 said:

No. Otherwise simple clay and many minerals would block allomancy. Much of their mass is aluminium.

That is a good point.

19 minutes ago, Oltux72 said:

I suppose the alcohol is kind of a sacrifical lamb. They hope that the oxygen that does get in oxidizes the alcohol rather than the metal.

I'm afraid oxidizing alcohol isn't easy. It is an endotherm process which normally requires metal oxid catalysts or enzymes as biocatalysts. So even in alcohol the metal would oxidize first most of the time.

22 minutes ago, Oltux72 said:

I am afraid that tightly sealing a vial on Scadrial used to be not that easy. The plants had no flowers during the Final Empire. Hence there were no bees. Hence there was no wax.

I believe they would have developed another sealing mechanism rather fast even if wax wasn't an option. You can also seal stuff with clay for example and I'm sure if you look into it there are a ton of other materials that can be used. Since sealing in liquids can be a pretty important thing (especcially while traveling) I would guess people in the Final Empire will have searched for methods to seal stuff pretty soon after they realized wax was no longer an option.

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On 10/19/2018 at 1:30 PM, Rhapsody said:

You are right though metals seem pretty common in the mistborn world. I remember reading that scadrial was really rich in metals somewhere.

That's another good point.  I trying to remember if they talked much about the relative metal economy in the Basin. I know Aluminum is "artificially" inflated because of it's tactical value neutralizing allomancy, but Im curious if what we consider precious metals like Gold and Silver follow the Earth norms or if they are as common as Iron. 

 

On 10/19/2018 at 4:56 PM, Rhapsody said:

I believe they would have developed another sealing mechanism rather fast even if wax wasn't an option. You can also seal stuff with clay for example and I'm sure if you look into it there are a ton of other materials that can be used. Since sealing in liquids can be a pretty important thing (especcially while traveling) I would guess people in the Final Empire will have searched for methods to seal stuff pretty soon after they realized wax was no longer an option.

Agreed, I believe they had something.  I dont recall if they got into the specifics, but the invention of Canning technology in Era1 was a major geopolitical development, and from I understand how it was done in the early days here,  they would have needed some form of wax-sealing equivalent.

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