The goal is to create the Great Wall of China out of Titanium - which is to say you need a lot of material.

Transmutation magic exists which can turn anything into a pure element (Titanium in this case). However, the amount of Titanium you get out of the transmutation process greatly depends on the purity of the element that you are starting with.

So the question is, What are some of the easiest to acquire high purity elements that you would transmute? This is purely focused on the collection of material and not the actual construction of anything.

With my limited understanding I believe high silicon content sand or coal might be some good options simply because they are easy to acquire, not necessarily because they are pure. How pure is Iron ore that is smelted, for example? Is there a simple refinement process for any solid element that could be used? 90%+ purity being ideal (No gasses or liquids)

Searching for this information has been harder than I expected so any help is appreciated

  • $\begingroup$ What about compounds of high purity ? It's relatively easy to produce distilled water or, indeed, alcohol. Machining and forging parts from Titanium is relatively difficult and the level of technology (or magic) available is important. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 2, 2020 at 0:27
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    $\begingroup$ Just a note: the Great Wall of China averages 10m high and 22.2 million metres long. Assuming that, accounting for trusses and whatnot, your Titanium version is 20cm thick, that's ~45 million cubic metres of titanium. If your transmutation magic conserves mass, that's two hundred million tonnes. Getting that much of any pure element (let alone a metal like iron) would be a titanic (hah!) undertaking. $\endgroup$
    – jdunlop
    Commented Jun 2, 2020 at 0:27
  • $\begingroup$ What is the tech level? you can get sulfur from the Alberta sulfur pyramid for free. if you are talking pre-industrial lead is probably your best bet by mass, but if you want volume carbon will be easier. . $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Jun 2, 2020 at 0:59
  • $\begingroup$ The goal is to create the Great Wall of China out of Titanium To what purpose ? We may be able to suggest alternative materials if we knew the purpose. Given that the GWOC has survived relatively intact for so long, what do you want Titanium for ? $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 2, 2020 at 4:59
  • $\begingroup$ Sand is not even a pure substance. Though it's usually thought of as mostly silicon dioxide, it can be lots of things: limestone, coral, basalt, various mineral ores; en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_sand $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Commented Jun 2, 2020 at 5:08

3 Answers 3

  1. Making things out of titanium is hard. It is a very difficult metal to work with, and I am not sure what are the benefits of it. Titanium sounds like something very strong and it's often portrayed in science fiction as such, but to be honest it's just easier to make stuff out of hardened steel, for example. If you do insist on using titanium, it's better alloyed with other elements.
  2. If your magic can make anything into anything, and the difficulty of working with the material is not a factor, go for iridium instead.

Use water or the atmosphere.

Obtaining pure elements is not too hard. A major obstacle would be transporting the elements to the construction site. But since you can make anything into anything, you can do one of two things:

  1. Find a nearby river or lake, and start a water electrolysis operation there. It splits H2O into H2 and O2, both of which are very pure. Then you can turn your hydrogen and oxygen into titanium or iridium or whatever.
  2. Distil the atmosphere into nitrogen and separate out the oxygen and all the other gases from nitrogen. You will never run out of raw materials, and you can have a mobile unit doing this literally at the site of constructions, with your magicians hanging out there, converting the purified nitrogen into titanium bricks.

Use coal.

Anthracite coal is more than 90% carbon, and it is solid. It is also very easy to mine, and being a a very light element it is very easy to transport to your construction site. Coal is also very abundant.

  • $\begingroup$ I'm specifically looking for solid elements to transmute into other solids. The transmutation process can make it into whatever you want so construction is not a problem -- what makes Iridium the better choice? $\endgroup$
    – Ster
    Commented Jun 2, 2020 at 0:40
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    $\begingroup$ All of these gases can be pressurised and cooled down to become solids. If you want your element to be solid at room pressure and temperature, then you already answered yourself. Iron ore can be easily smelted to iron, and it is much more than 90% pure. But then I would just use the iron (as steel), and not titanium. $\endgroup$
    – Gimelist
    Commented Jun 2, 2020 at 0:42
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    $\begingroup$ @Ster added coal to my answer. $\endgroup$
    – Gimelist
    Commented Jun 2, 2020 at 0:45
  • $\begingroup$ Liking coal a lot, how pure is charcoal? Thinking renewable. Does ancient China have ready access to that much surface coal? Seems like a lot of effort to make something out of titanium when the great wall didn't fail materially being made of stone. $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Commented Jun 2, 2020 at 1:21
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    $\begingroup$ @DWKraus "As of the end of 2014, China had 62 billion tons of anthracite" (source). With this amount of high purity carbon, you don't need any low quality charcoal. $\endgroup$
    – Gimelist
    Commented Jun 2, 2020 at 3:00

90% purity is trivially easy. Iron and copper and tin as smelted by the primitive processes used three thousand years ago were much more than 90% pure.

Even 95% purity is easy. Things get dicey only when you want to go over 99% purity.

So use iron. Lots and lots of iron. And lots and lots of blacksmiths to forge the iron to get rid of the slag and make it as pure as you want.

  • $\begingroup$ If this particular magic demands absolute purity, then we're SOL - there will always be a couple rogue atoms in each mole of the desired species :-) $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 2, 2020 at 14:32

The quantity required is so large that the material would have to be available in huge quantities.

The only solid elements that occur naturally in relatively high abundance are sulphur and carbon. And elemental carbon is far more plentiful than elemental sulphur by many orders of magnitude. So carbon is probably the only real choice.

It would also depend on how pure it needs to be. If fairly pure is good enough (85%+) you might be able to just use anthracite coal. If that's not pure enough then some form of processing would be required and the simplest option would be to heat anthracite coal in the absence of air to produce coke, but that would require a very large amount of effort and the purity improvement would be minimal, perhaps up to 95%.

Some types of carbon deposits are of greater purity for example jet but these are much more scarce and would not provide enough material.


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