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TIIE GARDEN ISLAND, TUE8DAY, NOV. 26, 1918
Especially efficient and economical for will tcork
Sanita ry wen t hot-proof f i reproof .
A high grade cold water paint for exterior ami interior work.
Tut up in 3."0 iHimul barrels. "A reputation behind if and
approved by the National Board of Fire Underwriters.
Honolulu Iron Works Co.
Honolulu, T. H.
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The Rexal Store
Box 426 Honolulu
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of our lines in which you may be interested.
The November Atlantic contains an
Interesting and Instructive article,
with this title, by Henry P. Talbot,
professor of chemistry at the Mas
sachusetts Institute of Technology,
and one of the leading authorities of
America along these lines:
"Among the various problems of
chemistry which have been sharply
emphasized by the war, none Is more
Immediately vital and insistent than
what Is known as the "Nitrogen ques
tion." We absolutely must have
nitric acid and ammonia, and these
are nitrogen compounds.
Nitric acid, in combination with
cotton, glycerine, or Toluene, produces
gun-cotton, dynamite, and T. N. T.
Without nitric acid there could be no
explosives, and the nation would be
at the mercy of its enemies.
The world's supply of nitric acid,
heretofore has come from saltpetre,
the only considerable supply of which
Is in Chile, where there are great beds
of It. However large these beds are,
they cannot last forever, and compet
ent authorities have warned the
world, before the war, that at the
rate of consumption then going on,
the supply would be exhausted In less
than a hundred years.
But the availability of this Chilian
supply depends, of course, on the con
sent of Chile and the menas and free
dom of transportation; conditions of
warfare might, and actually did
limit this source of supply.
Now thaf peace Is assured there will
not be the same insistent demand for
nitrogen compounds for war purposes
but the demands for agricultural pur
poses will persist and increase.
Plant life demands for its support a
certain amount of soluble compounds
of nitrogen. These exist more or less
in the soil, especially in virgin soil,
but are increasingly lacking in old,
worn out soils. The large amount of
nitrate imported to these islands
from Chile, for use on sugar lands.
and the recent anxious fear lest we
were going to be deprived of our usual
supply, are a confirmation of the vital
importance of these nitrogen com
pounds for agriculture. .
Even before there was any fore
cast of immediate war, commer.-ia;
chem.stiy wr.j 'listing aboi:1. for so.ne
Independent . iirre of mvly within
our own borders, or under our own
Sources of .
We live in an ocean of atmosphere
some six or seven miles deep, com
posed very largely of nitrogen. There
is about seven tons of nitrogen over
every square yard of the earth's
surface, so that we oughtn't to have
to go to Chile for our nitrogen. The
trouble Is that the nitrogen in the
air is inactive, and needs to be "fixed"
before this great reservoir of inert
nitrogen can be drawn upon. For
this purpose two or three , different
chemical methods have been discover
ed. One, known as the Birkland
Eyde process, fixes the nitrogen of
the air by means ot an intense elec
tric flame, melts it out of the air as
it were. But this presupposes cheap
electric current In quantity, current
that is not In demand for some more
Such conditions are found in Nor
way, and this process is more or less
a commercial success there. It is
also used to some extent in the viciiii-
ty of Niagara Falls.
The Liquid Air
Another method that is more im
mediately successful, is the liquid air
process. It is a comparatively simple
thing, by means of pressure and cold,
to reduce common air to a liquid con
dition. On the return of this to the
air condition the nitrogen boils off
first, ahead of the oxygen, and can be
thus secured almost pure. This can
be readily combined with other con
stituents to make the nitrogen com
pounds required for both military and
Still another process of much signi
ficance manufactures oxide ot nitro
gen by heating a mixture of air and
ammonia; nitric acid can then readily
be made from this. This Is the pro
cess by which Germany during, the
war has made herself independent of
Chilian nitrate beds, and supplied
herself with the vast quantities ot
nitrogen compounds which were ab
solutely vital to her existence.
The Cry for
Another vital prerequisite ot agri
culture and food production, is potash.
And the potash question Is nearly as
serious as the nitrogen question.
For many years the world's supply of
potash has come from Germany,
where there are vast deposits, known
as Stassfurt Salts. With the out
break of the war this source of supply-
was of course no longer available,
and the world began to look about for
other means ot meeting Its needs.
There are certain lakes, the chief
of which is Searles Lake in Califor
nia, from the alkali brine of which
large quantities ot potash are secured,
but it is not of the best quality be
cause of an admixture ot borax. An
other source that promises large re
sults is the Portland Cement works,
from which potash can be secured as
a by-product. Still another source ot
commercial potash is the giant kelp,
a sea-plant of the Pacific Coast. This
plant Is rich in potash and when dried
and burned delivers up a goodly a
mount of the same. The burning of
waste molasses furnishes another im
portant means ot recovering potash,
as we here in Hawaii are proving to
our own satisfaction.
Among the less threatening or less
immediate problems of a chemical
nature there is that of a substitute
for gasoline. There has been a pne-
nominal increase in the consumption
of this article during the lust few
years, from seven million barrels in
1900 to forty one u:!!or.-iu 1915, and
undoubtedly much greater extrava
It stands to reason that the supply
must be limited, and that it can't
stand such depletion indefinitely.
Ultimately, we will have to come to
the use of alcohol as a substitute,
which is entirely feasible, and thus
will be able to keep up the supply.
A notable discovery has been made
by which sawdust and similar wood
waste can be converted into alcohol.
Another problem is the threaten-
ing .scarcety of platinum. There are
certain purposes for which platinum
is absolutely essential. One of them,
of great importance, is the manufac
ture of nitric and sulphuric acids.
Platinum does not enter in, as a part,
of either of these acids but it is a
necessary adjunct, just as the minister
is a necessary adjunct to a marriage.
Platinum is also a necessary factor
in electrical appliances, as for ex
ample the ignition points of an auto
Now, practically all the platinum
comes from the Ural mountains in
Russia, a source ot supply which is
now cut off from us. Until conditions
change, or until science finds some
suitable substitute for platinum, we
will have to conserve that metal very
carefully, and abstain from its use as
jewelry for personal adornment.
A single instance may be given to
illustrate the extravagant waste of
natural resources continually going on
in important industries.
At the great smelter at Anaconda,
Montana, the sulphuric dioxide gas
which escapes from a single stack in
twenty four hours occupies a volume
of 23 million cubic feet, and weighs
2000 tons and would make over 3000
tons of concentrated sulphuric acid
daily. Incidentally the escape of gas
into the atmosphere destroys vegeta
tion utterly for miles around.
Slowly the world is waking up to
the wonder and wealth of the fairy
land of Nature by which we are sur
rounded, and also to the realization
that the chemist is the magician with
his wand who can call forth this
wealth and wonder, and make it avail
able for human use and enjoyment.
And as the world realizes this more
and more the chemist will more and
more come into his own.
C. W. SPITi, Prop. '
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A gfc O N
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