Posted on August 22, 2023
By Nicholas Charles.
Laser watches, fingerprint guns, explosives, and of course over-equipped cars… gadgets are one of the symbols of James Bond. The brilliant inventor is called “Q”. If some of these gadgets really existed (laser, fingerprint recognition, dorsal reactor), others, as we will see, are more capricious.
But all are based on a common basis, the raw materials needed to manufacture them, and in particular the mineral resources, which geologists are helping to find in the earth’s crust. Historically, people have used mineral resources to create and use technology, from prehistoric flints to today’s lithium batteries. Her Majesty’s most famous secret agent is no exception.
The cars are fast and inconspicuous in the world’s most famous secret agent
In 1964 in Goldfinger, James Bond (Sean Connery) must ditch his Bentley for an Aston Martin DB5 modified by the ingenious Q (the unforgettable Desmond Llewelyn). This is the first of eight appearances of the car now inseparable from 007.
The automobile is a positive example of the increasing complexity of products and the increase in the diversity of raw materials used over time.
Thus, the DB5 contains several metals and minerals, starting with aluminum, a metal that makes it lighter. It comes from bauxite, an ore that comes in particular from Jamaica around Ocho Rios…which served as the setting for Crab Key Island, the lair of Dr. No, in 1962.
The body of the DB5 is a series of aluminum and magnesium alloy plates resting on a steel tube structure. The engine block is made of aluminum, as are the pistons and the cylinder head. The rods connected to the shaft are made of a steel doped with chromium and molybdenum that ensures better resistance. The aluminum rims rest on chrome steel centers just like the spokes.
The automotive industry has evolved significantly since 1964 with successive innovations, increasing the diversity of mineral resources used. Dozens are needed today for a standard car – and what about the latest cars driven by 007 since the 2000s like the BMW Z3 or the Aston Martin Valhalla.
This will continue with the electric car that sees the intervention lithiumcobalt, graphite, nickel etc rare earth in the piles. In addition in 1971, in Diamonds are forever, James Bond flies and drives an electric lunar module! More recently in Death can wait (2021), the Aston Martin Valhalla is a plug-in hybrid car, but James Bond hasn’t gone electric yet.
Gold gun…too soft?
Another cult object, the Walther PPK, a German pistol used by 007 in many of the legendary opus. It is a weapon made of a stainless steel alloy. Although steel is mainly made of iron, it also has other elements depending on the use and the properties sought: chromium, molybdenum, nickel, manganese, carbon, silicon, copper, sulfur, nitrogen, phosphorus, boron, titanium , niobium, tungsten. , vanadium, cerium.
Even more valuable, Francisco Scaramanga’s (Christopher Lee) pistol is made of solid gold and comes in the form of an assemblage of everyday objects that might not be spotted during searches: lighters, cufflinks, pens and cigar cases. Limited to one shot, this pistol fires bullets with a caliber of 4.2 mm, weighing 30 g, and mostly 23-carat gold with traces of nickel. So much for the fiction…
It is really hard to imagine a pistol made of gold, a very dense and especially very soft metal, that would not withstand the power of repeated shots for a long time. In jewelry, gold, in order to be worn, often combined with silver, copper or zinc. A 1is July 2023, a kilogram of gold was trading around 56,500 euros. No wonder, gold is a precious metal, unchangeable and shining since antiquity, with a strong yellow color that excites lust and serves as a refuge.
So, in kiss from Russia (1963), James Bond receives 50 British gold sovereigns hidden in a suitcase full of gadgets. Attracted by the gold coins, Grant’s nemesis opens the booby-trapped briefcase as he targets 007. The tear gas escapes, saving Bond’s life.
James Bond and his enemies are equipped with advanced technology
The legend is also an opportunity to highlight cutting-edge technology that the public is not aware of when a film is released. Technology that relies on raw materials.
What better example than laser (in English ” light amplification does not promote the emission of radiation » and it means “amplification of light by stimulated emission of radiation”). Weapons, watches, cars, satellites… In one scenario, everything is “better” equipped with a laser!
In Goldfinger (1964), James Bond is threatened by a laser – which replaces the head imagined in the eponymous novel by Ian Flemming. The laser will also be marked in other episodes: the satellite Diamonds are forever (1971) et al die another day (2002); the laser gun Moonraker (1979); laser look at never again (1983) or Goldeneye (1995); machine equipped with a laser Killing is not playing (1987)…
In the end, the real applications of lasers are among others: telemetry, cutting, light projection. The first working laser dates back to May 1960 – physicist Théodore Maiman introduced it just before James Bond. This first laser worked using a ruby, a mineral from the corundum family (aluminum oxide), like sapphire. But it is a synthetic ruby created from aluminum oxide (from bauxite) mixed with a small amount chrome (mainly produced from chromite).
Depending on the application, there are different types of lasers:
- Crystalline laser: made of silica glass (from very pure quartz) or synthetic crystals of ruby or sapphire (aluminum oxide doped with Titaniumau chrome or rare earths: neodymium, ytterbium, praseodymium, erbium or thulium);
- Fiber laser: composed of optical fibers based on silica (derived from an ultra-pure quartz) and doped with rare earth (metals mainly extracted from minerals such as bastnaesite, monazite or xenotime);
- Gas lasers: operate with helium (extracted from natural gas deposits) and neon (extracted from atmospheric gas) or CO2 ;
- Organic dye laser.
Cross the red light Goldfinger was emitted from a laser (probably ruby) whose luminosity was amplified by special effects.
On the other hand, the destructive nature of the laser is pure fiction. During filming, an operator used an acetylene torch under the pre-cut table even as Sean Connery lay on it!
Finally, since the villains still have a grudge against James Bond, let’s mention the surgical steel jawbone of the impressive shark (Richard Kiel). The spy who loved me (1977) et al Moonraker (1979). It is a stainless steel that limits the risk of allergic reactions when it is in contact with the skin (very low in carbon, it is an iron-nickel-chrome-manganese-molybdenum alloy resistant to corrosion).
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