Fictional applications of real materials

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Of the substances named in this list:

Some exist in reality but are described in fiction as having properties which they do not have in the real world.
Some are fictional substances that have the same names as real substances.

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Name Source Uses
Aluminium Star Trek In the film Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Scotty gave the instruction to make the fictional material transparent aluminium. In fact, sapphire is an aluminium oxide (Al2O3) and is used as window material in some scientific applications.
Beryllium Galaxy Quest, The Shadow The starship NSCA Protector is powered by large spheres of beryllium. Also, beryllium is needed for the creation of a bomb and found by investigating the metal components of a supposed "beryllium coin" in The Shadow (1994). Beryllium's use in these fictional applications may arise from its actual use in some types of nuclear bombs.
Carbonite Star Wars Han Solo is frozen in a block of this and successfully revived later.
Cermet Final Fantasy XI Super-hard material used to build structures, armor and weapons.
Cheddite Star Smashers of the Galaxy Rangers Made by irradiating cheddar cheese, it enabled faster-than-light travel.
Chloroform Various The use of chloroform to knock out a victim was a recurrent plot device in 1980s television series such as Knight Rider, The A-Team, The Bionic Woman or Wonder Woman, and was featured in many movies such as Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. It was also used in the more recent Peter Jackson's King Kong movie and on the television series Smallville , Veronica Mars and Doctor Who. Also appears in Hergé's The Adventures of Tintin comic books and derived TV series.

Typically, the villain would spill a few drops from a small bottle onto a handkerchief, and then sneak up behind the victim. When the handkerchief was clamped tightly over the mouth of the victim, there would be a brief struggle before the victim slumped into unconsciousness. After-effects were usually limited to a brief headache. In reality, a dose far greater than a few drops inhaled over a short while would be required to knock somebody out. Such a dose could also be lethal. The chloroform's effect to knock someone out would not be instantaneous.

Cobalt Mortal Kombat Conquest Drains the powers of all non Earthrealm-born humans. Effect is greater the closer to the material a non human is.
Cocoa The Company series of novels by Kage Baker Called "Theobromos" by immortals, the substance has cocaine-like effects on said individuals and is used as a recreational drug by same. The powdered form is usually ingested nasally.
Diethyl ether Various Recreational ether use is featured prominently in Hunter S. Thompson's book, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and in the subsequent movie. Ether is also used recreationally by Dr. Wilbur Larch in The Cider House Rules by John Irving. In The Simpsons episode 8F09, Mr. Burns uses ether as an anesthetic in order to avoid feeling the emery board during a manicure. When Homer Simpson enters his office, Mr. Burns, still under the influence of the Ether, hallucinates that Homer is the Pillsbury Doughboy ("Poppin' Fresh").
Dolomite Futurama Exaggerated properties thereof in one episode, in reference to the movie Dolemite.
Duralumin Various The Marvel Comics character Captain America wears a suit of light weight duralumin chainmail beneath his costume for added protection.
A duralumin briefcase was featured in the game Resident Evil: Code Veronica.
The name of the fictitious alloy duranium used in the Star Trek universe is basically a take-off of duralumin.
Ebony The Elder Scrolls In the Elder Scrolls series, Ebony (most often known as a type of tree/wood) is described as a volcanic glass used to make incredibly strong armour & weapons. Ebony in this use is more similar to Obsidian.
EDTA Blade EDTA reacts violently with vampire blood in the film, and this property is used to great effect by the eponymous hero.
Einsteinium The Tashkent Crisis In William Craig's Cold War novel, einstinium-119 is used to build a nuclear warhead into the casing of a Colt .45 pistol. This element is chosen because it would presumably possess an isotope with a very low critical mass.
Electrum Transformers, Star Wars, Terry Pratchett In the Transformers universe, electrum is a liquid that, when used as a coating, reflects energy and renders the coated impervious to all sorts of weaponry. It is applied by taking a swim in a naturally occurring electrum pond. It wears off after a while.

In Star Wars, the lightsaber hilts of Mace Windu and Darth Sidious were made of electrum.

In Terry Pratchett's book, Pyramids, the pyramid constructed is given a capstone of 'real life' electrum (an alloy of silver and gold) so it can flare off its store of trapped time and dimensional energy.

Fermium Star Sonata An unstable commodity in the online game.
Fullerenes various Tagon's Toughs, the Mercenaries in the web comic Schlock Mercenary often use Fullerene Personal Combat Armour worn as regular clothes.

Stel Pavlou uses buckyballs, nanotechnology and complexity theory in the creation of flocking nano-swarms that form human-sized golems in the novel Decipher (2001).

Science fiction writer Neal Stephenson uses buckyballs as nanotechnological containers for things such as rod logic computers in his 1995 cyberpunk/postcyberpunk novel The Diamond Age.

In Green Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson, fullerenes of various sizes are created in the fall of the first space elevator (a cable of carbon) onto the surface of Mars.

In the Walt Disney film, Flubber, the formula and molecular structure of the Flubber was modeled after buckminsterfullerene.

In the Global television series ReGenesis, buckyballs are the primary component of a HazMat suit produced by government contractor, Shining Armor.

Buckyballs are used as a barrier in the novella Iron by Poul Anderson, which forms part of the book Man-Kzin Wars by Larry Niven, Poul Anderson and Dean Ing.

In the novel 3001: The Final Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clarke, BuckminsterFullerene is mentioned as the substance used to build the massive station-ring around earth and the necessary surface supports to maintain it.

Ginger Harry Turtledove's Worldwar series Ginger is a highly addictive stimulant for the aliens of the Race.
Gold Various RPGs, Doctor Who Used to make weapons and armor, often superior in strength to bronze or silver, despite gold's high malleability. Presumably, the effect of a magic field on gold is being treated as comparable to the effect of a magnetic field on magnetorheological fluid.

Gold is lethal to Doctor Who villains, the Cybermen — its non-corrodible nature supposedly clogs their respiratory systems, although they also seem to be affected by gold bullets and arrows.

Hard water The Flash comics Electrically charged hard water was the item that gave the first Flash (Jay Garrick) his superspeed.
Iron Discworld, The Boggart, et cetera. Is completely and totally immune to magic. In Celtic mythology and in many fantasy novels and games based wholly or partially on that mythology, iron is deadly or detrimental to elves and/or fairies. (See Fairy.)
Jade Exalted One of the Five Magical Materials, jade is the most common material, and is associated with the most common, least powerful of the Exalted, the Terrestrial Exalted. There are five different colors of jade, each of which corresponds to one of the Elemental Dragons. Blue jade resonates with Air, white with Earth, black with Water, green with Wood, and red with Fire. Jade weapons are unnaturally quick, and jade armor doesn't tire the wearer.
Lead Superman mythos Superman's X-Ray vision is unable to penetrate lead. Additionally, kryptonite radiation can be blocked by this material.
Lysine Jurassic Park In the film Jurassic Park, the dinosaurs have their DNA modified so that they cannot produce lysine and must be supplied with it by the park's feeding system, otherwise they will eventually die. This is a security measure to prevent the creatures from spreading if they ever escaped into the outside world. In the book, the dinosaurs escape and survive by eating things rich in lysine such as soybeans and lentils.
Milk Phil of the Future, Alien Nation Phil enters a pudding dispenser in his school's science fair, powerred by a milk engine invented in 2075 as another option to gasoline and batteries.

In Alien Nation, drinking sour milk affects the Tenctonese (aliens) in the same way that humans are intoxicated by alcohol.

Monoamine oxidase Shadowrun (Shadowtech game supplement) In the game, it is referred to as a drug called "Mao" and facilitates the rapid oxidation of adrenaline, thus removing its effects and decreasing reaction time.
Neutronium Star Trek, et cetera. An extremely dense material made entirely of neutrons, it is theorized to be the main constituent of neutron stars, held together by its own gravity. It is actually expected to decompose messily at any reasonable pressure, but this doesn't prevent authors from building space ships out of it and attributing to it various desirable qualities as armor, structural material, etc.
Perfluoropropyl furan The Abyss A mysterious (unnamed?) breathable liquid is used as the oxygen-carrying atmosphere in a deep-sea diving suit. A real lab rat is "drowned" in a beaker of the liquid, but overcoming initial panic, swims around quite happily. Although applications for humans are limited to artificial respiration systems(i.e. LiquiVent), mice have survived prolonged submersions in liquid fluorocarbons in which the solubility of oxygen is very high. When the animal is returned to dry land, the liquid vaporizes from its lungs and it can again breathe air.
Polonium The Fourth Protocol by Frederick Forsyth Discs of polonium play an important role in this novel.
Potassium Destiny's Road Larry Niven's novel examines the results of a potassium shortage on a remote planetary colony.
Promethium Excalibur (comics) Not to be confused with the real element, this promethium is a magical metal known only to the pocket dimension Limbo. Limbo contains only one deposit of this metal, its "heart," and would collapse without it. Coveted by Doctor Doom as an infinite energy source for his kingdom of Latveria.
Quadium Leonard Wibberley's The Mouse That Roared The name given to hydrogen-4, a highly unstable isotope of hydrogen. In the novel, Quadium is used to build the Q-Bomb, a thermonuclear doomsday device that is captured by the Duchy of Grand Fenwick.
Radium Edgar Rice Burroughs's John Carter of Mars Radium is used for many purposes in the technology of Mars, including radium lights, engines powered by radium and radium guns as hand weapons.
Rhodium Jack Williamson's The Humanoids Rhodium and metals next to it in the periodic table can be used to harness a force similar to electromagnetism, known as "rhodomagnetism". Rhodomagnetism is also mentioned in passing in Fredric Brown's What Mad Universe
Ruthenium Shadowrun (Shadowtech sourcebook) Changes color when subjected to small voltaic charge; used in the production of optical displays and "chameleon cloaking technology"
Salt water Alien Nation Reacts like an organic acid when it contacts Tenctonese tissue
Selenium various Selenium from the shampoo Head & Shoulders was used to kill the aliens in the film Evolution. (Note: this product actually contains pyrithione zinc, not selenium sulfide, but Selsun Gold shampoo contains selenium disulfide.)

In CSI episode 2.11, "Organ Grinder", two murderesses use selenium in prescription dandruff shampoo to poison one of their husbands, and it is revealed later in the episode that the other's husband also died of selenium poisoning.

In the film Ghostbusters, the site of the climactic final battle against Gozer takes place on the Ivo Shandor building which earlier in the film is stated as being “cold-riveted girders, with cores of pure selenium,” the building itself is used as an antenna to draw surrounding psychokinetic energy in order to bring Gozer into our world.

Silver German folklore, etc. Is proof against werewolves and/or vampires which are immune or resistant to normal weapons. Used in form of blade or bullet to combat such creatures, which led to the idiom silver bullet. Silver also appears in the Ys video game series as Cleria, a holy metal with the power to vanquish evil.
Strontium The Bionic Woman Jamie Summers battles a computerized complex bent on destruction. Although it doesn't contain a real bomb, it is to be destroyed by a military Strontium Bomb.
Tetrodotoxin The Serpent and the Rainbow Tetrodotoxin features as the method of zombification in the 1988 Wes Craven film The Serpent and the Rainbow, based on the non-fiction book by ethnobotanist Wade Davis.
Thorium Warcraft universe, Robert A. Heinlein's novels A type of metal used in Warcraft III and in the World of Warcraft (WoW) MMORPG. According to the Warcraft d20 Roleplaying Game Thorium is as hard as steel, but as heavy as lead. Weapons made of Thorium are considered heavy, clumsy and require some training to wield, but do sufficiently more damage than normal melee weapons. Thorium is the 2nd strongest metal not made by alchemy in WoW.

Robert A. Heinlein envisioned thorium as being the principal fuel of the advanced space-travelling civilizations described in his novels Have Space Suit-Will Travel and Citizen of the Galaxy.

Tin foil Various conspiracy theorists, Signs Supposedly, one can protect oneself against mind-control rays (government, alien, corporation, etc) by wearing a tin-foil hat.

In the movie Up, Up and Away, tin foil acts as kryptonite for the superheroes.

Ununpentium Urban myths, UFO conspiracy theory culture, Dark Reign, The Core, X-COM series Ununpentium has been theorized to be inside the island of stability. This probably explains why it had all sorts of lore around it before it was actually synthesized.

In the world of UFO conspiracy theory culture during the 1980s and 1990s, Bob Lazar asserted that ununpentium functioned as "fuel" for UFOs, being "stepped up" to ununhexium under "particulate bombardment," and that the ununhexium's decay products would include antimatter.

In the X-COM series, in reference to this kind of UFO theory, ununpentium is known as elerium-115 or just elerium (the name "elerium-115" being an error as in this form the number refers to the atomic mass instead of the atomic number, meaning that elerium would have no neutrons, which is not possible). It is used by the aliens to power their weapons and fly their UFOs on the game series. It can't be found naturally on Earth and it generates anti-matter when bombarded with certain particles, while also releasing gravity waves and other types of energy. Researching Elerium was essential for victory on the first game.

A stable isotope of ununpentium occurs in the game Dark Reign.

A stable isotope of "Element 115" powered the time machine in the TV Show Seven Days.

Water Signs, The Wizard of Oz, Vampire mythology When used against the aliens it took on properties similar to that of hydrochloric acid. Also in some vampire myths, (running) water has the same effect. Water was used to 'melt' the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz (1939).
Zinc Protector (novel) and other works set in Known Space, by Larry Niven Crystal zinc is the material from which fusion drive tubes are made. It's not explained what property of zinc is utilized, or why zinc is the best material for this application.
Zinc oxide Sketch Zinc Oxide and You in Kentucky Fried Movie Used in the manufacture of all sorts of materials in Zinc Oxide and You, a spoof of a high school science film. The plot is straightforward - as the announcer intones "without zinc oxide, you would not have ...", then there is a "ding" and the noted object disappears, with successively more disastrous results. Can be found at Educational films about Zinc, including "Zinc Oxide and You"

Fictional applications of real materials

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