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Bloomberg Businessweek-Asia Edition September 2, 2019

Each issue of Businessweek features in-depth perspectives on the financial markets, industries, trends, technology and people guiding the economy. Draw upon Businessweek's timely incisive analysis to help you make better decisions about your career, your business, and your personal investments.

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Bloomberg Finance LP
50 Issues

in this issue

8 min
even better living through chemistry

The inventor Buckminster Fuller once described technological progress as “ephemeralization.” Sunbeams and breezes are replacing coal and oil as energy sources, brands are more important than buildings to corporations, and fiat money has supplanted gold and silver. So it seems reasonable to conclude that the periodic table of elements—that wonky taxonomy of physical stuff such as copper, iron, mercury, and sulfur—is passé, no more relevant than a manual typewriter. Except exactly the opposite is true. Matter still matters. And on the 150th anniversary of the periodic table’s formulation by the Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev, it’s more important than it’s ever been. True, technology has made the economy more virtual, but it’s also vastly increased the capability and sophistication of material objects. Much of the enhanced efficacy of jet engines, computer chips, and…

3 min
periodic table of contents

Scientists have long sought to catalog the known elements: In 1789, Antoine Lavoisier sorted them by their properties. By 1808, John Dalton was listing them by atomic weight. In 1864, John Newlands argued for a law of octaves, asserting that every eighth element had similar attributes. But it took Dmitri Mendeleev to create a genuinely systematic and predictive table. Born in Tobolsk, Siberia, in 1834, the youngest of more than a dozen children, Mendeleev graduated from the Main Pedagogical Institute in St. Petersburg in 1855. He studied chemistry in Heidelberg and Paris, then earned a doctorate back home and became a tenured professor at Saint Petersburg Imperial University. Dissatisfied by existing Russian inorganic chemistry textbooks, he decided to write one himself. The work Mendeleev published beginning in 1869 both laid out the…

1 min
getting on the hydrogen highway

◼ Hydrogen $0.01 / liter 99.95% Grade B gaseous It may not look like it, but the building under construction 1 near the Norwegian port of Berlevag, is about to become part of the world’s most efficient wind farm. By early next year, it will house a device called an electrolyzer, which, powered by that Norse wind, will produce hydrogen fuel for a growing army of forklifts, cars, trucks, and buses. A hydrogen station 2 3 in the Oslo suburb of Hovik will soon be ready to fill them up. The hydrogen-battery revolution has been 10 years away for decades now. But Norway, Europe’s No. 1 in electric vehicles, is on track to become a leading adopter of the universe’s most abundant element. Proponents say it will become an essential component of…

14 min
a different kind of inflation problem

◼Helium $0.95 / liter 200-liter cylinder If Josh Bluett and his pal Thomas Abraham-James hadn’t run out of things to talk about during a road trip, they might never have read the six pages that changed their lives. Bluett and Abraham-James are Australian geologists and onetime housemates in Brisbane who’d been hunting precious metals and fossil fuels for mining and energy companies. By November 2013, Abraham-James was living in Tanzania, looking for gold and copper, and he invited Bluett for a visit. “I was having a great time—this was proper exploration,” Abraham-James recalls. “I told him, ‘You’ve got to come experience this place.’” During the long drive from the city of Dar es Salaam to one of the sites where Abraham-James’s company was prospecting for gold, Bluett found in the back of…

1 min
storage wars

◼ Lithium $10.34 / kg 56.5% lithium hydroxide, China market ◼ Beryllium $500 / kg U.S. market ◼ Boron $0.43 / kg Average value of U.S. imports If the 20th century was the age of the internal combustion engine, the 21st belongs to the battery. Within a few decades, batteries will probably be the dominant source of power propelling cars and trucks, and they could even become commonplace in helicopters and planes. Far from their golf cart predecessors, today’s electric vehicles can reach ludicrous speeds while emitting far fewer pollutants than gas guzzlers. They’re also easier to make, and their batteries can be recycled. Carmakers from General Motors Co. to BMW AG are spending billions of dollars to make environmentally friendly transportation a reality. But the effort comes with its own environmental hazards,…

1 min
a very high-end bike

Tougher than steel, lighter than aluminum, rather rare, and toxic if inhaled, beryllium is normally reserved for use in such high-tech applications as X-ray machines, spaceships, and nuclear reactors and weapons. But in the 1990s former triathlete Chris Hinshaw spotted a market opportunity: bicycles. His company in San Jose, Beyond Beryllium Fabrications, made about 100 bikes with the metal. Most were built using aluminum-beryllium alloys and sold for about $1,900; ones with weapons-grade beryllium went for as much as $30,000. Customers included baseball star Chili Davis. Hinshaw stopped making beryllium bikes after a few years because his main supplier, a Russian mine and refinery, became unreliable. “When the Soviet Union fell, we realized right away that there wasn’t an infrastructure in place, not only to make product but do it to the…