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Published on July 4th, 2017 | By: April Gocha, PhD

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In the name of liberty, America’s favorite lady dons some serious materials science

Published on July 4th, 2017 | By: April Gocha, PhD

[Image above] Credit: Reactions; YouTube

 

 

Hey, America—happy birthday!

 

On this day in history in 1776, America adopted the Declaration of Independence, setting its course as a nation of independent sovereign states free from British rule. The United States of America was born, and the rest is history.

 

While a lot has changed in the intervening 241 years, America still holds dear to some of its symbols of independence and liberty. And one of the country’s most iconic representations of its freedom towers some 305 feet above Liberty Island in New York City, N.Y.—the Statue of Liberty.

 

Materially speaking, the statuesque lady dons some 30 tons of copper skin stretched over her iron skeleton—the perfect materials for an installation expected to stand tall over a busy seaport next to a sprawling city, right?

 

Not quite. In fact, the Statue of Liberty’s materials have caused her some strife over the years.

 

In addition to improper care and upkeep, corrosion has caused America’s leading lady some serious trouble.

 

For a fascinating account, I highly recommend Jonathan Waldman’s book, Rust: The Longest War. In addition to a fascinating dive into what some may consider an otherwise boring topic (just wait for the glazed looks you get when you tell your friends you’re reading a book about rust!), Rust contains a thorough and entertaining opening chapter all about the material struggles of the Statue of Liberty—with a focus on her painstaking multimillion-dollar restoration project in the 1980s.

 

But we’ve all got problems, right?

 

So let’s focus on the American lady’s material attributes instead. You may have noticed that the Statue of Liberty is a lovely shade of green, despite being made of copper.

 

It turns out that her green patina is the result of decades of complex oxidation reactions of copper with air, sea spray, and more—a result that only could have occurred exactly where she stands tall.

 

So this Independence Day, celebrate America’s freedom by learning more about the chemistry behind this patriotic lady—the ACS Reactions video below has you covered with all the details.

Credit: Reactions; YouTube

 


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