Kryptonite is one of Superman's known weaknesses. The substance first appears in an unpublished 1940 story, The K-Metal from Krypton, by Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel. This story featured a prototype of kryptonite, a mineral from the planet Krypton that drained Superman of his strength while giving humans superhuman powers. It was not until 1943 during The Adventures of Superman radio series episode, "The Meteor from Krypton" that the mineral was formally introduced as kryptonite.
In the 1978 movie Superman: The Movie, Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman) finds a meteorite in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He determines that the space rock is a radioactive piece of the planet Krypton, which he uses to weaken Superman (Christopher Reeve). In Superman Returns, Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey) steals the Addis Ababa L9 Pallasite Meteorite and uses it to create a new Kryptonite landmass, and a dagger for use against Superman.
This mineral's crystal structure is very similar to the real-world mineral Jadarite, which is not the only real world example of Kryptonite. Scientists have simulated the combination of oxygen with the inert gas 'krypton' under high pressures to create kryptonite. While this is just a computer test, it means we are getting closer to creating real world Kryptonite. Should Superman worry about real-world Kryptonite? And how different is fiction from reality?
1) Jadarite was Discovered in 2006
The discovery of Jadarite is a fairly recent one. It was discovered in November 2006, in drill core from the Jadar Valley, Serbia. Very different from the space rock found in Ethopia.
2) Jadarite is almost Identical to Kryptonite
The similarities are uncanny given, that the chemical formula was invented for the movie. Kryptonite is a crystal that contains the elements sodium, lithium, boron silicate, hydroxide and fluorine. Jadarite is identical in every way, except it has no fluorine.
3) Jardarite is White and emits no Radiation
Unlike its fictional counterpart, the mineral emits no radiation. It does fluoresce a pinkish-orange color when exposed to UV light. The mineral is also white, not green like its fictional counterpart. Of course, there is also a white version of Kryptonite that kills plant life.
4) Jardarite is Super-Powered
Jadarite is an excellent source of lithium and boron. Lithium is an important component of rechargeable batteries, the type most used in hybrid and electric cars. The boron in jadarite can be used for products like fiberglass, glass, ceramics, fertilizers, detergents, wood preservatives and numerous other products.
5) Krypton Oxide is a Different Beast Entirely
Krypton is a colorless, odorless, noble gas. Krypton does not react with anything because all of its outermost electrons are filled, but because it is such a large atom, the attraction between the negatively-charged outermost electrons and the positively-charged nucleus is low. Under the right conditions, say high pressures, electrons can move and the atom can combine with other elements, like oxygen.
6) Krypton Oxide (KrO) is not Real
The compound developed by Polish Academy of Sciences is not real. Its synthesis was simulated entirely on computers, but understanding how it could be created will help scientists better understand chemistry under extreme conditions and how to eventually create this compound.
7) KrO is entirely Man-Made
The compound is theorized to be formed under pressures of 300 Gigapascals; this is 3,000 times greater than the pressure at bottom of Mariana Trench and close to the pressures found at Earth's core. This pressure means the compound is unlikely to be found in nature and can only be attained with a diamond anvil cell.
But Superman has nothing to worry about
Jadarite's crystal structure is exactly like Superman's kryptonite except it has no fluorine atoms. It also does not emit radiation though it does fluoresce under untraviolet light. Jadarite is a rich source of lithium, the primary component in the rechargeable batteries used in electric and hybrid cars. The crystal is also contains boron which is used to manucture materials such as, glass, ceramics, fertilizers, and detergents.
Scientists will soon push the boundaries of chemistry and create their own Kryptonite using atoms of the inert gas, krypton. This will give us a better understanding of how chemistry works at high pressures.
While kryptonite does not play a part in 2013's Man of Steel, it could play a significant part in the upcoming Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Fortunately, Superman has nothing to worry about as our real-world Kryptonite emits no radiation and will not harm him. The good news for us is that our kryptonite could potentially power the world and help us better understand some extreme chemistry!