Transmutation is the process by which one form of matter is converted into another. In Real Life (and sometimes in fiction), this involves a change in the nucleus of an atom. When the number of protons in the nucleus of an atom is altered, the identity of that atom changes as it is turned into another element or isotope. This transmutation process can be either natural or artificial.
Fiction tends to take a bit of Artistic License with what Transmutation is and how it works, especially when Transmutation is a superpower.
Transmutation can be expected to appear in works where Alchemy Is Magic.
Sub-Trope for Shapeshifting. One of the main characteristics of the Philosopher's Stone. When used to make money qualifies as Magical Counterfeiting. Serves as a Super-Trope to Midas Touch and Taken for Granite.
An advanced Matter Replicator may have this function.
- Black Clover: At first it seems that Grey's Transformation Magic can only be used to shapeshift. It's later revealed that she can transform objects and alter magics themselves by converting elemental spells into a different attribute. Gauche guesses that because she can transform other objects and magic, she doesn't actually have Transformation Magic. Grey later uses her magic to reassemble Gauche's body tissue by transforming the giant sword he was stabbed with, making it plausible that her magic isn't merely transformation. Owen notes that he's never seen such a magic that changes structure before, and names it Transmutation Magic.
- EDENS ZERO: Drakken Joe's Ether Gear allows him to transmute matter. He's been shown changing a glass bottle into heavy metal ore, dissolving solid Ether into gas and transforming the hull of the titular ship into paper.
- Fullmetal Alchemist: Alchemy, the process by which transmutation is induced in this universe, is a science rather than a mystic art. Alchemy follows the Law of Equivalent Exchange and the sequence of transmutation follows is as follows:
- Comprehension - Understanding the inherent structure and properties of the atomic or molecular makeup of a particular material to be transmuted.
- Deconstruction - Using energy to break down the physical structure of the material so as to make it more malleable.
- Reconstruction - Reforming the material into a new shape.
- Hunter × Hunter: Transmutation is one of the Nen types. Transmuters have the ability to alter the properties of their Battle Aura to mimic something else, or only specific attributes. Prominent examples include Killua, who can transmute his aura into electricity, and Hisoka, who can make his aura elastic and adhesive.
- The Eternals: Sersi's special ability is matter rearrangement and she is the only fifth level adept (the highest level possible among Eternals) in that discipline. It is said that even Prime-Eternal Zuras, the mightiest of all Eternals, fears her because of this.
- Firestorm (DC Comics): Everyone Firestorm has this ability. The first Firestorm could not affect organic matter but the Jason Rusch incarnation did not have this limitation.
- The Flash: Dr Alchemy possesses the Philosopher's Stone which can transmute any object into another.
- Invincible: Atom Eve is very versatile with her power of matter transmutation. As long as she knows how something is made up, she can change it into something else and since she was created with a deep understanding of chemistry and molecular structure, her abilities are only limited by her imagination. One major downside of her ability is that any unused atoms are absorbed into her body, which are then removed as waste. She has claimed that when she uses her powers a lot she has to "go to the bathroom" six or seven times a day.
- Legion of Super-Heroes: The hero Element Lad and the villain Cosmic King both have the ability to change chemical elements into other elements.
- Teen Titans has Shimmer, a member of the Fearsome Five, who can transmute any element or compound into another. The change only lasts for a few minutes and she can only affect materials within a radius of three feet.
- Thorgal: Jolan can psychically rearrange atoms to disintegrate objects. His mentor has even greater control over it, able to rearrange them into different objects at will, such as making a flower from thin air.
- Xombi: David Kim has limited transmutation abilities due to the Nanomachines in his body.
- Dungeon Keeper Ami: Magic can be turned into something that looks like gold, gold can substitute for magic, and magic can be used to gather and shape ambient matter into solid objects like paper.
- The Belgariad: Sorcery is a Thought-Controlled Power with little regard for physical laws, making it a simple matter of concentration to transform one substance into another. One would-be alchemist discovered his gift for sorcery when, after a failed attempt to turn lead into gold, he shouted at the lead bar to "Change!" — it did, along with the copper pipes in his walls.
- Dragon and Damsel: Azrael the Third is able to use magic to transform his own dragon scales into gold, silver, or bronze coins after they've been shed.
- The Dreamside Road: Enoa Clouds earliest Shaper training involves manipulating the condensation of moisture in the air around her.
- Harry Potter: Transfiguration is the magic of turning one object into another. The more two objects are alike, the easier it is to transfigure one into the other.
- Spinning Silver: The law of the Staryk Fair Folk is that "a power claimed and challenged and thrice carried out is true." Miryem claims she can "turn silver into gold", referring to her success in business, but trading the Staryk's silver coins up to an equal number of gold coins empowers her to literally transmute silver into gold in the Staryk realm, even though she's an otherwise non-magical human.
- The Stormlight Archive: Radiant Knights of the orders that can use the Surge of Transformation can change one form of matter into another at will, as long as they have enough Stormlight. There are also Soulcasters, Magitek devices with similar but more limited matter-alteration abilities. For example, some Soulcasters produce only grain, others only stone, etc.
- In The Traders, a Foundation merchant bribes a government official on an anti-nucleonic planet to release a Foundation spy with a device that transmutes iron into gold. He then blackmails the official into buying the rest of his cargo at an insane markup with recordings of him using the nucleonic device.
- The Wheel of Time: The One Power generally can't transform substances beyond simple physical changes. However, midway through the series, Egwene reinvents the long-lost spell to transmute iron into the indestructible substance cuendillar.
- The 4400: In "The Great Leap Forward", Meghan develops the ability to transmute matter through the power of thought after being exposed to promicin. While she is signing a report in her office, her pen turns into a lilac.
- Kamen Rider Kuuga: Kuuga's Dragon, Pegasus, and Titan forms allow him to temporarily transmute objects items of a certain shape into weapons suited to his forms. High tier Guronji also have this ability.
- Ars Magica: A spell with the Muto magical technique grants the target properties it would not naturally have, which can mean transforming it into an entirely different substance. For example, a Muto Terram spell could turn dirt into gold, or, with an Animal prerequisite, turn dirt into badgers.
- Champions. The Transform power can change one element into another, such as turning base metals into gold.
- Dungeons & Dragons:
- 1st Edition Advanced D&D compatible supplement The Dragon Tree Spell Book. The spell Transubstantiation is used by dragons to change one chemical element to another. One standard use is to change various substances to gold and adding it to their treasure. In one case, a dragon changed a stone bridge into hydrogen while its enemies were standing on it. It then cast a lightning bolt into the hydrogen cloud, causing the cloud to explosively combine with atmospheric oxygen.
- Most spellcasting classes have some use of the School of Transmutation, which includes spells like baleful polymorph and flesh to stone. Spells that transmute substances can be specific (e.g.: transmute metal to wood) or general (e.g.: polymorph any object, which can turn almost anything into almost anything), but most can be dispelled or have a limited duration.
- 5th Edition wizards who specialize in the School of Transmutation can alchemically transform a wood, non-precious stone, iron, copper, or silver object into another one of those substances for a short time.
- GURPS Supers. The Alter superpower allows one element or compound to be changed to another.
- GURPS Magic. Transform spells can change one substance (element or compound) into another.
- Dark Souls III: Ludleth of Courland is a practitioner of transposition, the art of converting particularly strong souls into weapons and items. You'll have to find him a suitable kiln before he can do it.
- The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: Applies to the Transmute spell, which turns iron ore into silver, and silver ore into gold.
- The Meteor, the Stone and a Long Glass of Sherbet: The "ruther" spell can transform pure chemical elements into other elements.
- Warcraft III: The Goblin Alchemist's Transmute ability instantly kills an enemy unit and gives gold depending on its cost. It can only be used on weaker creeps and has a long cooldown period, though.
- Kill Six Billion Demons: Transmutation is integral to the "Art of Lying to the Face of God", or magic. The Red Art of Dominion empowers a practitioner to convince the universe that one form of physical matter is actually another form, like creating fruit out of thin air. The White Art of Division can transform the self, like traveling across dimensions. Combined, they can achieve effects like a Forced Transformation.
- Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal: Jesus transforms water into wine with a Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: the new elements are created through nuclear fusion, causing a massive explosion.
- The inspiration for the alchemist's goal of turning lead to gold might have been inspired by the process of turning a similarly dull gray metal (zinc) into a shiny golden alloy (brass).
- Breeder reactors are intended to change one type of fissile material to another, such as uranium to plutonium (for nuclear weapons), or thorium to uranium (to recycle nuclear waste).
- There have been numerous attempts to use nuclear reactors or particle accelerators to transmute metals into precious metals, but few of them are cost-effective.