Science: New Wrinkles

Germanium Crop. Dr. Hans Brauchli of Johns Hopkins University is one of many scientists who have been ransacking the earth for germanium, the rare and elusive metal that is made into transistors.

He knew that certain kinds of coal contain small amounts of it, probably concentrated in some way by the ancient plants that coal is made of. So Dr. Brauchli analyzed the ash of modern plants that grow in parts of the eastern U.S. where the water shows faint traces of germanium. He found that some plants, mostly from swampy areas near mountains, have as much as 5% of the metal...

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