Other Metals We Simply Can't Do Without

Although technically not "critical," copper, silver and zinc are essential for all of us.

Copper is the world's most widely used metal. We need it to wire and plumb our homes. We need it to build and run our planes, trains, ships and automobiles. It's essential for computers and phones and the electric cars that promise to reduce our carbon footprint dramatically. Even our bodies require copper to function properly. Got copper?

We can't do without silver, either. Sure, it's a store of value as money and nice to look at in jewelry. But on a practical level, silver has the highest electrical conductivity of any element and the highest thermal conductivity. That makes it essential for electronics (including your computer and smart phone), solar power, batteries and superconductors. But there are dozens of other uses, and the list is expanding. 

And then there's zinc. Just try to have a modern society without zinc. It's the world's fourth-most used metal, and it's essential for batteries and metal galvanizing (to prevent rusting), and it's combined with copper to produce brass. It's essential for paints, rubber, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, plastics, inks, soaps, batteries, textiles and electrical equipment and...well, you get the picture. And don't forget your sunscreen, which also uses zinc.