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"Is Unobtainium very easy to obtain?"
Peter Griffin, Family Guy

Unobtainium is engineering jargon for, "a material that would be perfect for our purposes, if we could get it, but we can't."

When used in the realm of fiction, Unobtainium is usually the exotic material that is needed to make the Applied Phlebotinum of a given story work. Without it, all your nifty machines and plot-enabling gadgets quit functioning.

Some forms of unobtainium are based on real physics, but beyond the current scope of human engineering, such as room-temperature superconductors; they would revolutionize just about every form of technology, but they are not in and of themselves dangerous or based on some exotic physics-bending principle.

Others are more fantastic "high-grade" unobtainium, such as antimatter, which would be a revolutionary way of storing huge amounts of energy, if it didn't violentlynote  undergo mutual annihilation with any conventional matter it comes into contact with, including air molecules and the walls of whatever you're trying to store the damn stuff in.

The most common varieties of unobtainium in fiction sit somewhere in the middle, like materials so resistant to heat and/or damage as to be Nigh Invulnerable compared to other, similar substances. Materials such as mithril are the fantasy version. Thunderbolt Iron is especially popular in fiction (and has some basis in reality – until smelting was invented (which takes ridiculously hot - 1250 °C or 2282 °F - furnaces, hence the term "Iron Age"), it was the only source of refined iron).

Sometimes an object that actually exists, or existed at one time, becomes unobtainium because its unavailable now or just unavailable specifically to our heroes due to economic or political complications.

Much mad science uses unobtainium, such as chemicals with impossible properties, universal solvents that can dissolve anything in the blink of an eye, super-explosives that make nitroglycerin look like a weak cough, and plenty of other funny-colored solutions. Following this would be medical and/or chemical wish-fulfillers; Classical real-world alchemy casually referred to carmot, the base substance of the Philosopher's Stone, and Azoth, either the "universal medicine" or "universal solvent". The ancient Greek writer Plato referred to "Orichalcum" (Greek for "mountain bronze") in his description of Atlantis.

In Science Fiction, it will usually take one of three flavors: whatever stuff makes Faster-Than-Light Travel possible, closely followed by the stuff that can mess with gravity (if they're not one and the same), and finally, the stuff they make Humongous Mecha and Alien spacecraft out of, which is why they tend to be effectively immune from earthly weapons or environmental damage.

For Willing Suspension of Disbelief, authors may pick out something actively being researched within the scientific community at the time of writing and run with it. Naturally, this risks dating the work when Science Marches On and today's "super technology" buzzword becomes the next generation's comic-book junk science. The current favorite in hard sci-fi is helium-3 – believed by many to be the fuel of choice for those nifty fusion reactors that should be perfected any time now. Theoretically, it's a safe large-scale energy source with few environmental side effects. But more importantly, though, there's extremely little of it on Earth; on the Moon, it's Not Rare Over There — which would provide a good reason to go there.note 

The term "Unobtainium" originates from aerospace engineers in the late 1950s, where it was used as a Hand Wave for a material sufficiently strong, light, and/or durable to meet the needs of a particular situation under discussion, even if no known material could possibly do so. It has occasionally been used in official discussions to avoid directly identifying a material whose use is still considered top secret (such as the titanium skin in the project that eventually produced the SR-71 Blackbird). Most people, however, first heard the term as the mineral sought by the mining company in Avatar, and mistakenly think that is the Trope Namer. It was also infamously noted in The Core.

See also: Minovsky Physics when the Unobtainium has well-thought-out properties that are strictly adhered to, and its opposite, Green Rocks, when it can do anything and everything the plot demands. Orichalcum, said by Plato to have been used in Atlantis, is a particularly common variety.

Compare Mineral MacGuffin, Spice of Life and Fantasy Metals.

Example subpages

Other examples:

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    Comic Books 
  • Marvel Universe:
    • Naturally, the setting has adamantium (in multiple flavors; see below), but it also has other "magic metals" like vibranium (of which there are two varieties, Wakandan [which absorbs kinetic energy/sound/vibrations] and Antarctic [atypically emits vibrations that cause other metals near it to liquefy]), Uru (an enchantable material, the same metal of which from Thor's hammer was forged), promethium (a magical metal found only in Otherplace/Limbo, which can be used as an energy source, despite it being a real chemical element with real properties), and netheranium (the material of Damien Hellstrom's trident). The best example, though, would have to be the infamous "unstable molecules" used to make so many heroes' and villains' costumes.
    • And Captain America's unobtainable unobtainium shield — completely indestructible, but also a handwavy one-off item. A number of stories suggest that Cap's shield is an otherwise impossible vibrainium/adamantium alloy reinforced by American righteousness (as opposed to ''self''-righteousness). Since the guy making it fell asleep during the forging process, we'll never know. The "vibranium/adamantium alloy" thing is due to a misprint in one of the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe issues. His shield was made from a unique alloy of iron, Wakandan vibranium, and some unknown contaminant. When the metallurgist who had made it tried recreating the alloy (while Cap was frozen), the closest he could come up with is what's known as (true) adamantium, which is slightly weaker than the alloy in Cap's shield!
    • Speaking of, adamantium comes in a few flavors. True Adamantium is the nearly-indestructible metal alloy that's bonded to the bones and claws of Wolverine. There's also Secondary Adamantium, which is a lot cheaper to make but is still quite strong. Carbonadium (the stuff covering Omega Red's tentacles) is what the Soviets came up with when they tried to create true adamantium; it's about as strong as secondary adamantium, but is more malleable... and radioactive. Also, in the Ultimate Marvel universe, adamantium can block telepathy.
    • There's also Vibranium. There's two kinds of Vibranium - Wakandan and Antarctic; Wakandan Vibranium absorbs energy - kinetic and regular energy - which makes it a perfect armor or even a substitute for Captain America's shield, while Antarctic Vibranium destroys any and all metal upon contact. Wakandan Vibranium is only found in the isolationist country of Wakanda while the Antarctic variant, even if it was only found in Antarctica, is nearly impossible to mine and contain due to its metal-destroying properties.
    • A metal native to the Breakworld in Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men run adversely affected Kitty Pryde when she phased through it, to the point where she ended up stranded inside a ten-mile long bullet of the stuff when she phased it through the Earth, and wasn't able to control her powers after Magneto rescued her.
    • X-Men: The Krakoan Age introduced Mysterium. Found and mined from the White Hot Room, when settled, it's a very powerful metal. It's as strong as secondary adamantium as Captain Marvel could not bend it with all her strength. It negates all magic, even those used by a Sorcerer Supreme like Doctor Strange and is somehow able to be one of the few things undetectable to the Spider-Sense!
  • In an early Marvel/DC crossover featuring the X-Men and the New Teen Titans, the villain Darkseid keeps both teams shackled, and states that Kitty Pryde's shackles are made of a rare metal with molecules so tightly packed, not even she can phase through them.
  • The DCU has its own varieties of unobtainium:
    • In the Silver Age DCU, Krypton became a gold mine of unobtainium. Any item, living or not, that originated there would become indestructible under a yellow sun. Kryptonite was also formed by the explosion of Krypton (with various varieties in the Silver and Bronze Ages).
    • Promethium is the DCU's equivalent of adamantium, a super hard metal that superstrong superheroes have a tough time damaging (it was used to create Cyborg's body), and Nth Metal, or "transuranic iron ore", was the key to Thanagarian technology (as seen frequently in Justice League). Irritatingly, promethium is a real metal (element 61), one with no stable isotopes and no special structural properties. DC's promethium comes in two flavors. "Raw" promethium can be used as an energy source or a mutagen. When alloyed with titanium and vanadium, it forms a near-invulnerable metal.
    • In the video game Batman: Vengeance, there's a substance called "prometheum," which shares its name with DC's metal, but it's a chemical formula that's used for keeping people cryogenically preserved, but bursts into flame very easily.
    • The first version of the Legion of Super-Heroes used "inertron" for this purpose, an invulnerable metal.
    • The pre-Crisis DCU also featured the invulnerable metals "Supermanium" (a metal once created by Superman) and "Amazonium" (the metal Wonder Woman's bracelets were made from), both invulnerable metals akin to inertron.
    • Radion is incredibly rare. It's also very special because it is the Kryptonite Factor of the New Gods. Even Darkseid can be truly and permanently killed by Radion poisoning and a Radion bullet — fired by Batman of all people — to the shoulder is the first part of Darkseid's Rasputinian Death in Final Crisis.
    • Stellarium is a very rare and special mineral that has the incredible ability to stabilize planets, prolonging their inevitable destruction. Green Lantern Tomar-Re tried to use a bit of stellarium to save Krypton, but was delayed. In Omega Men, the conflict over the Vega system is due to Vega being one of the only places where stellarium can be mined.
    • The Dark Nights: Metal event is caused by Batman being exposed to several forms of unobtanium which opens a gateway to the dark multiverse. Several of those mentioned above are among them along with a new one, batmanium.
  • Hawk and Dove (1990): the Druspa Tau arc features the magical "tridic metal" that can be willed into the shape of any object for which you know the True Name. Hawk figures out it also works if you know the object in enough detail to just name each individual component.
  • Tintin:
    • The adventure Tintin: The Shooting Star revolves around a mission to retrieve a sample of unobtainium (dubbed "Phostlite") from a fallen meteorite. The only obvious property of the stuff is making things rapidly grow to enormous size, like mushrooms... and plants... and animals, like butterflies and spiders. Fortunately, germs don't seem to be included.
    • In Tintin: Destination Moon, Professor Calculus has invented a new substance — calculon — which can "resist even the highest temperatures", with which to make the nuclear fission motor for the rocket.
  • Epiphyte in The Metabarons, the original source of the Castaka family wealth. It is an oil with anti-gravity properties.
  • Chaos Emeralds in Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics) went from Kryptonite Is Everywhere to Unobtainium during the "Order From Chaos" storyline. Prior to the story, Mobius had hundreds of Chaos Emeralds and if the story needed one, poof, there ya go. However, when A.D.A.M. drew every Chaos Emerald in the solar system to Mobius, Turbo Tails and Super Shadow (the ones who were forced to bring them there) realize how dangerous that was and shove them all into the Zone of Silence. Feist, the being remaining there, became a god when he harnessed their power to remake the Zone and condensed all of those emeralds into only seven. Like their video game counterparts, they're used for either Super Mode activation or powering up super weapons. Like rewriting your reality.
  • Bombastium from the Disney Ducks Comic Universe is believed by a Brutopian secret agent (hinted to actually be his country's prime minister, since he is a caricature of Nikolas Khrouchtchev and seems to be able to command the Brutopian navy) to be an all-mighty unobtainium. It is a pink substance that's so rare that the world's whole quantity of bombastium looks like an ice cream ball. (Literally. The world's whole reserves of bombastium are a pink ball stuck inside a big ice cube.) Since Scrooge was pushed into buying the thing, the Brutopian dignitary chases him all around the world, trying to buy and later to steal the bombastium. When he finally gets hold on the ball, it is discovered that its only power is to make ice cream: one tiny bit of bombastic in a barrel of water transforms into a barrel of ice cream, each time of a different savor, and the Brutopian — who doesn't like ice cream — angrily gives the ball back to Scrooge.
  • Mickey Mouse Frontier Chronicles (a Mickey Mouse Comic Universe series) has Korkonium, which is basically space gold - it has limited use, but is highly priced because of its rarity. At least, until people discovers that it messes up the Enemy's creations, ranging from "temporary weakness, can't be affected or controlled by the Enemy ever again" to "melting into inanimate matter".

    Fan Works 
  • If Wishes Were Ponies introduces us to Painite in Chapter 25, where it is used by both the Goblins of Gringotts and the Ponies of Equestria as a Power Crystal to enhance magical capabilities within armored plating, and that by selling a fist-sized bag of Painite accidentally made the Cutie Mark Crusaders the 10th-largest depositors to Gringotts due to how rare the material is found on Earthnote . The Goblins were left completely gobsmacked when they heard a comment by Rarity saying that Painite is actually very quite common in Equestria, and that she usually ignores them when digging for gems since stitching them into her customers' dresses actually interferes with most of their spellcasting abilities.
    The other Goblins looked shocked at such casual use of an extremely rare gem. And what that mention meant for the actual rarity of the item.
  • Mike's New Ghostly Family: Remnant, an Applied Phlebotinum from Five Nights at Freddy's series that was known as the substance that kept the ghost children trapped inside the animatronics in the first place and allowed Michael Afton to live on as a zombie, is interpreted in the fanfic as a liquid metal composition that was manufactured by Emily Robotics and Afton Robotics before its discontinuation. Its official purpose was to stabilize the animatronics' structure and prevent them from falling apart, but it turned out to possess an unusual property of being capable of trapping a soul inside itself when accumulated in large quantities, but its effects can be nullified by very high temperatures. By the time events of the fanfic take place, most of the Remnant was destroyed in the fire of Henry's trap pizzeria, with the last remains of it being present in Circus Baby's Entertainment and Rental, until Mike Schmidt and his ghost children burned down the place to ensure that no one would be able to use Remnant for their sick purposes, and nowadays no one knows to recreate the substance. William Afton found out about the metal's properties when Elizabeth was killed by Circus Baby, a Remnant-coated killer animatronic, and ended up getting her soul trapped in the machine, which led to him trying to figure out how to achieve immortality through Remnant after he tested his hypothesis by murdering the children that would become ghosts in the present day.
  • In Neither a Bird nor a Plane, it's Deku!, super metals like Nth Metal and feminum are mentioned throughout the story. Izuku's costume is as durable as he is thanks to being woven from Seventh Metal fibers provided by his father. Ochaco's costume is similarly durable thanks to being constructed from a diluted feminum alloy that cracks Tenya's armor when he tries to attack her in the Heroes vs. Villains exercise.
  • Taylor Varga: The Varga is able to create a pseudo-metallic substance referred to as Vargastuff or "the good stuff". It's eventually revealed to be electron-degenerate matter that has been altered by Varga magic to 1) remain stable outside the core of a dying star and 2) behave for purposes of momentum and gravitational attraction as if it were "only" six and a half times heavier than lead, rather than approximately nine hundred thousand times heavier. The substance has effectively infinite durability, hardness, and tensile, compressive, and shear strengths, is almost totally frictionless, is both a perfect electric insulator and a perfect thermal conductor, doesn't really react chemically with anything, and interacts oddly with certain parahuman powers. It becomes a major component of the devices, structures, and designs the Varga creates, used in everything from armor and weapons to creating artificial life.
  • White Sheep (RWBY): As in canon, Dust is the Applied Phlebotinum used for everything, but all the deposits that have been discovered are running out, and the world is approaching a Peak Oil situation. While there are still more deposits in the Grimmlands, one of the biggest game changers is the reveal that Dust actually grows the closer you get to Salem's tower and the Pools of Annihilation. Salem has basically unlimited money just from the Dust she clears off her tower every once in a while. Weiss, the heiress of the largest Dust company on the planet, is utterly gobsmacked and says this runs counter to everything the world knows about Dust. Giving mining rights to the other countries is a large step forward in getting the Grimmlands recognized as a nation.

    Films – Animation 

    Films – Live-Action 
  • In 21 Jump Street, there is a substance called Unobtainium, which apparently "has a nuclear reaction with the flux capacitor — carry the ’2′ — changing its atomic isotoner into a radioactive spider." Or, you know, this thing doesn't exist and the character speaking was just stoned out of his mind.
  • Avatar refers to it by name. The movie features a mineral called unobtainium, although, in the film, the unobtainium functions as a Mineral MacGuffin; it's described as a room temperature superconductor that makes space travel more affordable, but never really expanded on apart from that. On the website wiki some of the other uses make it apply to this trope better. According to the guide, it's called "unobtainium" because this is a tongue-in-cheek designation for all high-temperature superconductor materials, called so by Earth scientists when they gave up on reliably synthesizing them. MAD's lampoon of Avatar lampshades and mocks the name by calling it "Stupidnameium".
  • Central to the plot of Black Lighting (Chernaya Molniya) is a mystery space element that powers the flying car. The Corrupt Corporate Executive spends the entire movie trying to get his hands on it.
  • Averted in The Cat from Outer Space. Jake's ship needs a piece of "Org-12" to get going again, and when he runs down the element's properties, Frank realizes it shares an atomic weight with, of all things, gold.
  • The Core lampshaded this, calling their Unobtainium Unobtainium ("Its real name is thirty-seven syllables long") which turned heat and pressure into electrical energy. Perfect for a journey through the Earth's molten core. Extremely practical, as all you had to do was to randomly cut supply wires and casually weld them to the substance in question, and you had an energy source that rivaled a nuclear reactor.note 
  • In District 9, the unnamed nanofluid is found in prawn technology in extremely small amounts, and is apparently quite precious. It has the power to activate the aliens' ship as well as transform a human into a prawn.
  • The spaceship in Galaxy Quest runs on beryllium, a natural but rare element. When the only beryllium sphere on board breaks under stress, the crew sets out to obtain a replacement sphere from a nearby planet. They eventually succeed but the distraction caused by this side quest enables the Big Bad to seize their ship.
  • Godzilla vs. Kong: Apex Cybernetics believe based on satellite scanning that the Green Rocks in the Hollow Earth which are apparently the original source of Godzilla's bio-atomic powers can be harnessed as a completely-unparalleled energy source; which is something Apex need to get their Secret Weapon working, because there's literally no manmade power source available on Earth which can fully charge it up. To this end, Apex develop the Hollow Earth Aerial Vehicles with the aim of achieving human entry to and exit from the Hollow Earth without being crushed by the gravity inversion. The synthetic version of the energy source which Apex duplicate does just what they wanted it to, but it also does more, thanks in no small part to a lack of basic testing and Apex being stupid enough to connect Ghidorah's undead, haunted skull up to their weapon.
  • Parodied in the fifties B-movie homage The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra with Atmosphereum, a super-powerful and poorly-defined element capable of operating spacecraft, resurrecting evil skeletons, and delivering actual advances in the field of science.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • During Iron Man 2, the palladium core inside Tony Stark's personal arc reactor has been gradually poisoning the rest of his body. However he can't find a replacement until Nick Fury guides him to some old footage his father left for him. Turns out his dad was trying to steer Tony to figuring out an engineering conundrum that he was unable to crack in his day thanks to the limits of 1970s technology. When synthesized, the element Howard Stark was researching turns out to be the nontoxic substance Tony needs to safely power his arc reactor.
    • Captain America: The First Avenger introduced Vibranium, a very rare material that can absorb vibrations like nothing else, that eventually became part of Cap's shield. It became a point of contention in Avengers: Age of Ultron when Ultron attempted to steal a supply to make himself a new body. His supplier, Ulysses Klaue, was later a minor villain in Black Panther, when it was revealed that he stole "the world's supply" from Wakanda, a mythical African nation sitting on several orders of magnitude more than the amount that Klaue stole. Black Panther also revealed that Vibranium had uses other than reducing vibrations in shields or catsuits - it could also power vehicles, propel technological progress centuries ahead of the rest of the world, and influence plant life so that consuming it would heighten strength, speed, and reflexes.
  • In Outlander, after establishing that Viking swords aren't strong enough to injure the Moorwen, Kainan salvages some hull metal from his crashed starship, and gives this to the local blacksmith to forge some stronger swords.
  • Fluid Karma in Southland Tales. A compound found by drilling in the ocean that apparently can be used to generate electric power. Also, acts as a drug working somewhat like a Green Rock.
  • Metallic tritium serves this function in Spider-Man 2. Doctor Octopus has to make a Deal with the Devil (requiring him to beat the protagonist) in order to get some. Strangely enough, the way he's going to use the tritium is a scaled-down version of one way physicists are trying to develop fusion power called "inertial confinement". The idea is the same, vaporize an amount of an element with lasers in an attempt to create a miniature sun, only the scale and elements used are different. For more information, this writer's original reference is "Kaku, Michio Ph.D. Physics of the Impossible. Doubleday Publishing, 2008. Pages 43-45."
  • Star Trek:
    • Star Trek (2009) has red matter, which can make black holes on cue.
    • Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home also has an unobtainium in the form of Transparent Aluminum, the molecular formula for which Scotty gives the original inventor an ethically challenging time loop, in exchange for some high-quality transparent polymer slabs, the closest 20th century equivalent, to make a whale tank with. It should be noted that recent advances in materials science actually have created a form of transparent steel, at least in the lab.note 
  • Turbinium ore from the original Total Recall (1990), which is being mined on Mars against the local rebels' wishes and keeps Cohaagen's regime running, as his superiors on Earth give him carte blanche as long as their supply remains constant.
  • In Transformers: Age of Extinction, much of the plot revolves around the humans trying to master and use "transformium," the mineral which forms the DNA of the Transformers and acts as programmable matter. A company with a military contract already exhausted all they can by salvaging transformer corpses and are seeking more. They discover some in an old Cybertronian method of Hostile Terraforming that converts organic matter into transformium with the range of a nuke.
  • Adamantium in X-Men Origins: Wolverine comes from meteors. Specifically, sacred African meteors, making it this continuity's answer to Vibranium. Thus completing the transformation begun in the Ultimate Avengers films.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Cybervillage, the actual word (nedostupnium) is used for what Baragozin intends to mine on Mars.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Dalek cases are made of Dalekanium, which makes them Immune to Bullets, although recent episodes showed that they now use a Deflector Shields variant to vaporize bullets before they even reach the case. Dalekanium is often called "bonded polycarbide" when they want it to sound less silly. Which basically means plastic, specifically Kevlar.
    • Various episodes have featured a group of people in a confined space looking for Unobtainium when suddenly they get attacked by the alien of the week. Dark Matter has been used as the unobtainium more than once and has several different uses and effects depending on what episode you see, from use as transport between dimensions to regular spaceship fuel to turning people into bloodthirsty monsters.
    • A variation in the serial The Daleks' Master Plan; the Daleks' Ultimate Weapon depends on a supply of the rare substance taranium. Unfortunately for them, the Doctor gets his hands on it first, and the Daleks spend the rest of the story trying to get it back.
  • Game of Thrones: Valyrian steel for Westeros. The Valyrian Freehold was able to forge a steel that was lighter but far stronger than ordinary steel. Absolutely nothing cuts like Valyrian steel; it would go through a knight in full armor like a hot knife through frozen butter. The secret of forging Valyrian steel was lost in the Doom, partially due to the fact that magic is used in its forging and magic is nigh extinct, but a handful of smiths are able to rework it. It's used by the Order of Maesters to signify mastery of the higher mysteries. Needless to say, the handful of Valyrian steel swords and daggers are thus prized heirlooms for the houses of Westeros such as Ice for House Stark (which was reforged into two for House Lannister) and Longclaw for House Mormont (which was passed on to Jon Snow of the Night's Watch).
  • The Mithril in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power much like in the books, can be found only in Khazad-dum, and has the property of being "lighter than silk, harder than iron".
  • Stargate-verse:
    • In Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis, naquahdah is material the Gate is made of. Also, naquadah-enhanced nukes are used to Blow Stuff Up. This is demonstrated magnificently in the season 3 finale of Stargate Atlantis. Naquadah is also a powerful source of energy (naquadah reactors).
      • Also serves as a room-temperature superconductor, a component of hull armor by most major species, and a ludicrously efficient heat sink (deals with what gets generated not only by basic system(s) operations, but also sustained multi-megaton weapons fire).
    • Its evil twin is naquadriah, which can also be used to Blow Stuff Up, but is radioactive, "unstable" and has a track record of blowing up its users. Naquadriah also indirectly plays the Unobtainium role in Stargate Universe as the only known power source that can support a wormhole between the Milky Way and Destiny. Only problem is that it takes a planet full of the stuff to do it, and that planet tends to blow up in the process.
    • The iris on Earth's Stargate is made of a trinium-titanium alloy.
    • Human-form Replicators apparently need neutronium (which is a real thing, but a bit exotic in that it can only have stable existence in a neutron star).
    • Also ZPMs could be seen as a sort of unobtainium given that no-one knows how to make them and they're needed to run all the Ancient technology in the series (as well as providing a convenient bit of Tim Taylor Technology to the human ships).
  • The whole of Star Trek is liberally sprinkled with various types and grades of unobtainium.
    • The original (and most frequently recurring) example is dilithium, used in the reactor core of warp drives as a control medium because lithium's properties were well-known, but there are many others.
    • Corbomite, which doesn't actually exist; it was an Ass Pull by James T. Kirk to bluff an enemy — which means that Trek pulled a Lampshade Hanging on their own tendency to invent vaguely-magical substances in one of its earliest episodes.
    • Neutronium. Essentially this is used any time something's made of a material that the crew's weapons won't be able to penetrate. This is a real substance: a type of "degenerate matter" composed entirely of neutrons, thought to be what neutron stars are made of — but since even a thimbleful would weigh millions of tons, its usefulness as a material is rather limited. Astrophysicists rarely if ever use the word "neutronium" for this stuff, preferring terms like neutron-degenerate matter, and that that neutron star matter would not be stable without the extreme pressures of a neutron star in the first place anyway, i.e. it would instantly explode producing extremely intense neutron radiation.
    • Duranium, Tritanium, Baakonite, and other metals used in starship construction.
    • Latinum, a valuable liquid metal, used as a form of hard currency due to its rarity and the fact that replicator technology cannot recreate it.
    • Trilithium, less stable than dilithium, but equally magical (and extremely explosive).
    • Keiyurium, a Shout-Out to the original Dirty Pair.
    • Verterium Cortenide, a compound of two non-existent substances, used in the warp coils themselves.
    • Archerite, another Ass Pull, this time by the Andorian Shran when explaining to another alien commander what he was doing in their territory.
    • Transparent aluminum. which gets bonus points, given that a normal modern chemist could apparently figure out what it was just by looking at the atomic structure. Naturally, he would still be helpless to reproduce it without a diagram of said structure. Scotty thinks the chemist was the guy who invented it in the original timeline before their time travel shenanigans, so it makes sense he would grasp it immediately.
    • Cortenide, which comprises Data's skull with duranium, as he describes to a Klingon warrior who almost knocked himself out headbutting him.
    • Boronite, which is apparently used to synthesize the extremely powerful and highly unstable Omega molecules.
    • Benamite, a hard-to-find, hard to synthesize and unstable crystal similar to dilithium that can power a "quantum slipstream drive".
    • Trellium-D formed a major Mineral MacGuffin for the third season of Star Trek: Enterprise, which has the ability to negate the random anomalies that existed in the Expanse. Interestingly, there appeared to be a sub-science developed around the item, with a method of synthesizing the stuff.
    • At one point in Star Trek: Voyager when aliens try to kidnap Paris for the weapons research that has been implanted in his brain, Janeway mentions that they packed the shuttle he was captured in with fulmorite explosives.
    • The writers on Voyager and Enterprise used Deuterium as one of these a few times, apparently not being aware that it's both a real thing (an isotope of Hydrogen) and not all that rare. The way it's presented in the episodes has no relation to the real substance.
    • In the Star Trek: Strange New Worlds episode "Those Old Scientists", it's revealed that the NX-01 was made from "horonium". However, trying to make the stuff was difficult because it had a 50/50 chance of blowing up, as Spock and a time-traveling Boimler find out. It's also needed to get a time machine working so the aforementioned Boimler (and later Mariner) back to their time.
  • Both versions of Battlestar Galactica relied on a fictional element called "tylium" to power their FTL drives.
  • Power Rangers:
    • In Power Rangers Time Force, Trizirium Crystals are a very powerful energy source that originally won't be discovered about 200 years from 2001, because of the battles between the Time Force Rangers and Ransik, as well as Bio-Lab trying to reverse-engineer the future tech the early discovery nearly sucked the world into time vortices in the "End of Time" three-part finale.
    • Power Rangers RPM has flux overthrusters needed to handle advanced zord control stuff. The first one was lost in the wastelands after the plane it was installed in was shot down. The second...well, it's lucky that that's when the bad guys sent a bot capable of Power Copying.
  • The jumpgates and jumpdrives of Babylon 5 relied on an exotic and extremely rare mineral called Quantium-40 to function.
  • In Knight Rider (the original series), KITT was built out of a material called either Tri-Helical MBS (commonly referred to as a "Molecular-Bonded Shell") or Plasteel 1000, which rendered the car almost indestructible.
  • In the TV series of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, it's revealed that an element Wayne named "Szalinskium" is at the core of all his impossible inventions. In another episode it's revealed that he obtained it from the space alien Arnox.
  • In a two-part episode of Wonder Woman (1975), we learn that her indestructible bullet-deflecting bracelets are made of "Feminum." (This is in contrast with the Comic Book canon, which at the time held that her bracelets were made of "Amazonium.")
  • In The Amazing Extraordinary Friends, the X insignia is specifically stated to be made of unobtanium, which is how it bestows all manner of superpowers on Captain X.
  • Kamen Rider has a lot of this going on in the manual; as detailed on the official websites, the Riders' gear is typically made out of rare, unusual materials that can sustain all kinds of punishment and augment their abilities, yet still looks like vinyl and plastic. They typically have appropriately thematic names, too; to cite just one example, Kamen Rider Wizard's suit and weapons are made of "Sorcerium".
  • Ultraseven saw the debut of a robot known as King Joe, constructed by the Alien Pedan race using the metal Pedanium. In all of its subsequent appearance, its construction with this metal has granted King Joe ridiculous levels of Super-Toughness.
  • Intergalactic: New aurum, exotic matter discovered by humans in 2124, is used for powering space ship's drives which lets them go faster than light (it has negative mass under a magnetic field). Consequently, the entire human interstellar civilization has come to rely on this greatly.

    Music Videos 
  • In Cat Hairballs, Stimpy's hairballs become this, what with apparently being so versatile that they can be made into everything from high heel shoes to Italian sports cars. Because of this, Stimpy is forced to hwarf hairballs up for Ren until Stimpy passes out from exhaustion and gets stamped on the butt cheeks.

    Myths & Religion 
  • The oldest example would be Orichalcum (Orichalc, orichalcos) which is part of the Atlantis myth - Plato describes it as somewhat reddish, shiny, and hard, and usable both as armor and art. Conspiracy buffs identify it with an alloy of gold and copper from South America that does, in fact, have these properties.
  • Adamant, which has a legendary hardness dating back centuries, being an older name for diamond. Unfortunately, it also shares a name with an adjective, and so tends to be saddled with suffixes. Look for Adamantine, or for that Sci-Fi twist, Adamantium.
  • The entire premise of ancient and medieval Alchemy was based on the pseudo-scientific search for Unobtainium ("philosopher's stone" or "quintessence"), usually described as a material which would catalyze the manufacture of gold from base metals.

    Newspaper Comics 

  • The Red Matter in Stern Pinball's Star Trek; getting enough of it creates a Black Hole, which awards a mystery prize.
  • Unobtainium is one of the playfield targets in Avatar.

  • In Embers in the Dusk, the Troll Remnant Kingdom spends millions of years trying to recreate their extinct War in Heaven ancestors, until it turns out the original process depended too heavily on some extremely advanced C'tan material. Once the Destroyer is killed, its intact corpse turns out to contain enough that, with all the preliminary work done by the Remnant, the True Trolls should only take a week to recreate.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Mechanical Dream: Orpee, a fruit-like plant found very deep underground. It naturally concentrates eflow within itself, and is used to fuel almost every piece of technology in existence and to imbue mundane tools with special properties. It's also necessary for basic survival, as the world's natives will die without regularly eating it. Orpee is, in every sense but the literal, the center of the world.
  • Shadowrun, true to its fantasy-scifi-blend form, borrows from myths for its Unobtainium, such as orichalcum, an alloy of copper, gold, silver, and mercury that couldn't even begin to exist if there wasn't magic in the world.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • Almost every race has a form of this, from the psychic wraith bone to the ubiquitous armour plate the humans use on tanks, adamantium. Adamantium's properties are never really explained, though, in the books, it seems to suffer from a mineral variation of The Worf Effect ("How could they cut through X many feet of adamantium that easily?"). The technology levels in the setting also cause some rather strange applications for the unobtainium, such as adamantium bayonets fitted to the lasguns of the Imperial Guard.
    • When Adamantium first appeared, it could only be created in orbital plasma refineries and once set it was essentially indestructible. Plasteel was what Terminators were mostly made out of (Dreadnoughts had significant amounts of Adamantium, but most vehicles weren't made of the stuff — heck, no real mention of what material they were made out of at all. Even the Land Raiders were mostly titanium-bonded ceramite when it was first discussed what they were made out of). Once Adamantium became ubiquitous through the Imperium, that's when the stuff got Worfed.
    • Another Worf Effect example is the material used in Space Marine power armour, Ceramite. Often such examples involve either cutting blades or melta/heat weapons, as ceramite is reckoned to be extremely resistant to heat. (The name, incidentally, seems to refer to cermet, which is a real thing.) This also happens a lot with human building materials in that universe, all of which have odd but recognizable names and are supposedly better than what we have now, but which can be reduced to rubble in the first bombardment.
    • Promethium is some kind of super fuel (or a generic term for any fuel), which is used in everything from their warmachines and flamethrowers, and can be harvested from gas planets, some kinds of ice, and in mineral form.
  • Warhammer: Glowing green "warpstone" is used to create mutations, enhance magical powers, bring the dead to life, and as an energy source for powerful technology. In the Skaven rat-men society, it is even used as currency. Warpstone is considered rare, and is mined and collected by nearly all factions in the Warhammer setting. The Warhammer world also has a moon composed entirely of warpstone, Morrslieb, which rains warpstone meteor showers on occasion.
  • Warhammer: Age of Sigmar: Sigmarite, a metal ore mined at great cost from Mallus, the Old World's core. It's mainly used in the weapons, armor and equipment of the Stormcast Eternals and it's rumored that Ghal Maraz, Sigmar's hammer, it's made of it. This reinforces the fan theory that Sigmarite it's just gromril, also called meteoric iron. A metal used extensively by the dwarves and the Empire in their magic weapons and heavy armors.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • mithril, adamantine, orichalchum, and the Philosopher's Stone are typical baseline unobtainiums.
    • Eberron has Dragonshards, Khyber Dragonshards, Siberys Dragonshards, Star Metal, Baatorian Steel, Residuum, Arcanite, Byeshk, Ironwood, Bronzewood, Densewood, Soarwood & Riedran Crysteel. Unobtainium overload indeed.
    • Mystara: Red steel, cinnabril, and related substances from the "Red Steel" region.
    • Birthright: Bloodsilver.
  • Exalted:
    • The five magical materials, Orichalcum, Moonsilver, Starmetal, some variants of Jade and Soulsteel. All of these are extremely difficult to obtain and work: Orichalcum only forms when gold touches magma and has to be worked in a lava flow while sunlight streams onto the forge; Moonsilver only forms in the Wyld, where reality is breaking down; Starmetal only comes from meteorites, which rarely fall (because they only fall when a god dies) and produce much less ore than the other materials; Soulsteel is made from ore from the Labyrinth (under the Underworld) and ghosts; and Jade requires hazardous chemicals to work and is used as a currency, admittedly an extremely high-value one. There is even an Unobtainium version of Jade - in rare and unrepeatable alchemical accidents Jade (most normally a mixture of white and green Jade) can be turned into Yellow Jade which is possibly the most coveted magical material out there.
    • With the release of the Alchemical sourcebook, there now exists a sixth basic magical material as well: Adamant. It is extremely rare in the main world of Creation, and only slightly more commonly found in the machine-body world of the Primordial Autochthon. To quote the sourcebook, "Adamant is composed of super-dense, electric-blue diamonds that form in yard-long rod-like masses with smaller crystals growing off larger ones. They can be found in areas that are under enormous pressure and are scorchingly hot. Mining for adamant is impossible without protective gear, even for Exalts, and special tools must be used to cut the crystalline rods free so that they can be taken back to a city and refined into useable forms." Though it is a crystal, rather than a metal or stone like the other materials, it is used in the forging of magic weapons and armor in an identical way to the others.
    • Solars. One of the reasons that Solar technology is unsustainable by anybody else is due to their Wyld Shaping powers. When Solars need a material with properties relevant to the artifact or Magitek they are building, they just go out into the Wyld and conjure it up, regardless of how impossible its existence would otherwise be.
  • Mage: The Awakening:
    • The "Perfected Metals". They have numerous extremely useful properties (perfected iron, for example, is practically indestructible, capable of cutting through diamond when properly sharpened, and can bend like rubber before returning to its original shape, with absolutely no metal fatigue), and can be used to create all manner of useful alloys (such as the anti-magic "thaumium"). There are only seven of them (only alchemical metals can be perfected), and it takes powerful magic to perfect them and alloy them. Perfecting is also a very expensive process, since it requires only naturally formed samples of metal (rather than transmuted or conjured) and only 10% of the mass yields perfected metal, with the rest being completely lost (hence, you perfect 100 grams of metal and only get 10 grams of perfected metal, with the remainder destroyed).
    • Apeiron, a material that can only be produced by some archmasters and appears to be some sort of Platonic ideal: it has whatever physical properties are best for the situation at hand. This is actually an example of an author being extremely informed; in a philosophical debate in ancient Greece philosophers argued over which Element was the foundation of all existence. The winner of the debate proposed 'Apeiron' over any of the traditional four elements, describing it as 'undifferentiated stuff' that could concentrate into different configurations to form anything.
  • Traveller: Besides the lanthanum used in jump drive technology, features so many varieties of unobtainium that the latest edition lampshades it by including "unobtainium" as a trade good.
  • Deadlands: Ghost Rock, which burns twice as long and twice as hot as coal, is used for all the weird high tech stuff and somehow stopped the collapse of the Confederacy. Oh, and it looks like coal that has had tortured human faces into it, and it moans faintly when burned.
  • GURPS: The various essential elements from GURPS Magic as well as orichalcum and adamantium in Fantasy and hyperdense matter in Ultra-Tech.
  • Although it's a tabletop war game rather than a tabletop RPG, Steve Jackson Games' OGRE features combat units protected by Biphase Carbide armor. This makes them tough enough to withstand anything short of a direct hit from a nuclear weapon.
  • Talislanta has a number of forms of Unobtainium, some based on historical alchemy and others made up for the setting, and fairly thorough rules for crafting and utilizing them.
  • Nexus Ops: The corporations fight for control of a mineral called Rubium. Nothing more is known about it from the manual, but it seems that some indigenous species on the planet it is mined on are linked to the mineral in some way as there is a creature called the "Rubium Dragon" which is also the most powerful unit in the game.

  • The Transformers franchise is a pretty good place to mine for Unobtainium.
    • Energon being the most frequent and the best example: Transformers need it to live, but too much unstable Energon radiation can cause shorting out. It's also highly volatile when stored in most environments (and likely to explode if dropped or fired upon), and other properties too bizarre and diverse to list. Other Unobtainium-like materials include...
    • Electrum — a real substance, actually, but given fictional properties.
    • Furmanite — Obscure, used only in one Botcon-exclusive comic.
    • Nucleon (Though used as an Energon substitute, it causes bizarre reactions in a Transformer's "biology", most notably the loss of transformation ability.)
    • Cybertonium (Never thoroughly explained, though it breaks down more rapidly in Earth's atmosphere than other Cybertronian minerals. Loss of this substance is serious for Transformers built on Cybertron. Like Energon, it can also be processed and stored in cubes.)
    • Destronium
    • The "living metal" that Transformers themselves are made out of in most continuities, which goes by different names and has different properties in each, but is usually capable of shapeshifting in its own right, flowing like liquid to form their humanoid bodies.
  • BIONICLE's Matoran world has protodermis (often shortened to just "proto" by the fans), which admittedly isn't really rare because it makes up everything in that world: the water is made of liquid proto, rocks and metal ore are solid proto, and proto even makes up the organic tissues of living beings. Truer examples of Unobtainium that really are hard to obtain include a super-hard variant of metal protodermis called "protosteel" and "energized protodermis": an un-synthesizable liquid that either unpredictably transforms anything it touches or destroys it. Oh, and it turns out energized proto is alive, too.
    • Another world, Bara Magna, has its own Unobtainium called Exsidian, though unlike protodermis it doesn't have any special properties beyond better resistance to wear and tear.

  • Phantomarine: All the known Phantomarine in the world was supposedly used to make the Lighthouse Road, so Pavel's mother is baffled to find out some was made into a lantern and given to him.
  • The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob! has borfomite, a rare substance that becomes an unstoppable weapon when chemically combined with caramel. Later, when Galatea gets hold of a sample she invents a borfomite-powered Deflector Shield that is proof against borfomite weapons.
  • The Way of the Metagamer has actual unobtainium, which adheres to Minovsky Physics.
  • The Order of the Stick: Roy was told his broken ancestral sword was forged from starmetal, requiring a sidequest to obtain more. Roy was rather unimpressed when he discovered the "vast wealth" of starmetal was a chunk smaller than his fist. Furthermore, his sword never had any starmetal in it; the whole thing was a distraction to get rid of his party for a while. However, when he finds an honest smith, she tells him that the small chunk of starmetal he found is immensely valuable ("Most of it tends to burn up in the atmosphere, you know") and reforges his sword with it as an alloy. Making a full sword out of the stuff would require all the known starmetal in the world, and be far too heavy to be usable. It lets his sword overcome most forms of damage reduction and occasionally releases bursts of energy that are harmful to undead and evil outsiders.
  • The time machine in Times Like This is driven by the fictional element Sesquicentium (atomic number 150), a metal that has a tendency to time-warp by itself.
  • Chronologium permits Time Travel in PepsiaPhobia. Without it, two characters got stuck nine years and will stay probably much more in the past.
  • Catalysts in The Story of Anima are special minerals that are fueled by Anima to cause an effect.
  • In one fourth-wall breaking Arthur, King of Time and Space strip, Merlin, criticising Avatar for actually using the word "unobtanium", claims that the CAVE is powered by "runsoutatcriticalmomentsium".
  • Homestuck has Zillium among its Grist types. Grist in general is a building material in the game of Sburb/Sgrub, and most types are based on real-world materials. Zillium is a rare type of Grist with a unique appearance that, in large quantities, can be used to make some of the most powerful weapons in the comic's universe.

    Web Original 
  • Whateley Universe has plenty of unobtainium. They've stolen adamantium from the Marvel Universe, and they've included some of the mystical variants, including orichalcium and mithril. Oddly enough, at the Super Hero School Whateley Academy, mithril no longer counts as true unobtainium, because there's a side character (Silver, a girl from India) who sweats mithril. The school has had to set up a mithril brokerage.
  • In Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, the good doctor powers his freeze ray with Wonderflonium, not far removed from Unobtainium as it has the power to make the impossible possible and power the freeze ray — which freezes time — for a short time, at least. Wonderflonium should also never be bounced for some reason.
  • The League of Intergalactic Cosmic Champions has Plotonium as a generic whatever-the-plot-required supermetal. Also a building block of the universe that allowed people to have superpowers was Nevesytrof (much more stable then the Sub-Reality or Super-Reality of other universes.)
  • Protectors of the Plot Continuum:
    • Generic Surface. A material created when locations and surfaces in fanfics are given little or no description, the Flowers have used it to build PPC Headquarters due to its durability, structural integrity, and the fact that there is a readily available supply to make such a huge building out of.
    • Not a metal, but falling under this heading, is Bleeprin and its derivatives. Bleeprin is a mixture of bleach and aspirin, advertised as "brain bleach", which erases the memory of a bad fanfic and then the headache it gave the agents. Derivatives include Bleepka (Bleeprin and synthetic vodka, a very popular derivative, often used for making cocktails), Bleepolate (Bleeprin and chocolate), and Bleepsinthe (Bleeprin and synthetic absinthe). Bleeprin's only real downside is that it explodes when mixed with real alcohol, hence the use of synthesised substitutes.
  • The SCP Foundation has SCP-148, also known as Telekill. In the initial write-up stuff is incredibly useful, allowing blocking of effects of many psychic-type anomalies. It was supposed to still be a mystery and very limited in quantity (and Foundation unable to make more of it), but ended up being used in far too many SCP writeups resulting in a mass rewrite/retcon. After it, it still blocks psychic influences, but with a catch - it absorbs them, while gaining mass, and eventually releases everything it accumulated in one big amplified burst. Needless to say, this is very very bad. Even when used in smaller quantities in personal protection equipment it now slowly drains intelligence and willpower of the wearer. It is still used sometimes, but in very careful and limited ways.
  • The inventions of The Spoony Experiment's Doctor Insano are powered by Raritanium.
  • Super Stories has Electronium, resistant to all known methods of scanning (including superpowered ones). Apart from one villain's secret lair being made out of the stuff, no known piece is larger than a pebble.
  • Allen Fesler writes stories set in the Chakona Space 'Verse. One of his inventions is boronike, which is extremely valuable and very useful to engineering types. It is commonly used in teleporter tech because of its inability to be teleported.
  • Orion's Arm has several flavours of unobtanium, but is notable that they try to be a reasonably hard sci-fi setting and so have put very careful thought into its plausibility and possible uses.
    • Magmatter, made from magnetic monopoles is perhaps one of the cleverest, and has a reasonable amount of vaguely plausible science behind it. Magmatter facilitates megastructures like Ringworlds thanks to its incredible tensile strength, Cool Starship engines that perfectly convert matter to energy without all that nasty mucking around with antimatter due to magmatters ability to catalyse baryon decay, dense enough magnetic current to make Plasma Cannon useful and Railguns easy and stranger things like gamma ray lenses and mirrors that couldn't be built out of normal matter.
    • Exotic bosonic matter with negative mass that can hold open a wormhole and support a slower-than-light inertialess drive system.
    • Antimatter, of course, but also curious things from theoretical physics like q-balls and q-mirrors that allow complete and easy conversion of matter to antimatter.
  • The Lay of Paul Twister: In the fantasy world that Paul Twister is stuck in, aluminum is considered Unobtanium, since they don't have the technology to produce it easily yet. (The story correctly notes that it requires electricity, which is still in the early stages of being discovered.) On the more fantastical side, the bones and scales of dead dragons are very rare and highly sought after by wizards, because they can apparently provide a material link that comes in handy should you ever end up in a fight with a living dragon.
  • Devil's Dust: The characters here need sugar to fuel their ship and, from the looks of it, they have to try hard to obtain it.
  • Screen Rant Pitch Meetings: In the Avatar pitch meeting, the Screenwriter calls the sought-after mineral Unobtanium because the humans are having a hard time obtaining it. The Producer assumes that it's a placeholder name, and the Screenwriter will come up with a less ridiculous name, to which the Screenwriter says, "Yep! For sure! I will!

    Western Animation 
  • The Powerpuff Girls employs this in the making of the show's namesake heroes. The Unobtainium here is the mysterious Chemical X (a fancy name for the contents of a Can Of Whoop Ass). It also produced the show's biggest recurring villain, and drove several single-episode plots. Powerpuff Girls Z upgrades it to Chemical Z. One episode shows that you can also get the same results from a prison toilet since that's what Mojo Jojo used to make the Rowdyruff Boys.
  • One arc on Rocky and Bullwinkle involved a search for a mountain full of "Upsidaisium", an anti-gravity metal.
  • The Flintstones had an episode featuring Urgonium — a mineral that exploded on solid impact.
  • Justice League maintains the Thanagarian's Nth Metal which can, among other abilities, generate electrical currents and disrupt magic.
  • Ninjago has a number of these:
    • Vengestone, which dampens one's Elemental Powers.
    • Chronosteel, which goes a step further and is able to absorb one's powers permanently.
      • A type of blue crystal, which can work in conjunction with Chronosteel to absorb and contain multiple powers at once.
    • Deepstone, which harms ghosts and prevents possession, as it's mined from the bottom of the ocean and the ghosts' weakness is water.
    • Clearstone, the hardest known substance.
  • The first 2009 episode of The Colbert Report's Show Within a Show Tek Jansen has the Big Bad enslaving some tiny doughboy aliens to mine Scarcerarium.
  • Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century: Duck Dodgers went to Planet X to find Illudium Phosdex, the Shaving Cream Atom, in his classic '50s adventure.
  • Spiral Zone has Neutron-90, the rare material that the Zone Riders' uniforms are made from; it protects the soldiers from the Spiral Zone's Mind Control effect. At the beginning of the series, there's only enough of it to make five suits. Later, enough Neutron-90 is discovered to make two additional uniforms, and so Sixth Rangers Ned Tucker and Ben Davis are able to join the team.
  • In Thunder Cats and Thunder Cats 2011, machines are powered by Thundrilium.
  • Phineas and Ferb:
    • In "Phineas and Ferb's Quantum Boogaloo", Phineas and Ferb need a wood and steel fusing tool, which apparently won't be invented for 20 years.
    • In "Vanessassary Roughness", the element "Pizzazium Infinionite" is described as (maybe) having wondrous properties that could be used in the future to power generically-futuristic technology.
    • In "Phineas and Ferb: Mission Marvel", another element called "Mundanium Finite" is used as a substitute to Pizzazium Infinionite due to the latter's scarcity. While they appear to have similar properties, powering Doof's inator takes four times as much Mundanium than Pizzazium.
  • In Teen Titans (2003), the thief Red X used a suit that was powered by Xenothium, which was only described as being unstable and crazy dangerous, but was capable of insane things, such as creating explosive projectiles, shields, metallic bands and all kinds of crazy shizz. (Apparently, the stuff is so dangerous that even respectable superheroes like Robin aren't allowed to buy it; he had to get it from the black market.)
  • Futurama:
    • Professor Farnsworth once has the crew deliver a single atom of Jumbonium — a tennisball sized "single atom" that doesn't seem to do anything beyond adorn a tiara. If nothing else, it's valued for its rarity; that single atom is worth more than $50,000.
    • Dark matter would also count, though that was perfectlyobtainableium for the entire first run of the series as long as you have a member of Nibbler's species around (it's their poop). It goes back to being unobtainium in Bender's Game, and ships need to be retooled to use whale oil (just go with it, it's that kind of series) instead.
  • When Kowalski of The Penguins of Madagascar builds a time machine, he needs five grams of "Macguffium-239" to power it.
  • The 1987 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles use this trope such as the episode, "The Big Zipp Attack", when Shredder needed to obtain an extremely rare and hard metal "rigidium" for the Technodrome.
  • In an episode of the children's show WordGirl, Chuck the Evil Sandwich Making Guy had built a giant sandwich press designed to crush City Hall. He claims it's made out of "super strong steel", and Word Girl is unable to damage it. Considering bending steel beams is usually like snapping a twig for her, it's somewhat ambiguous exactly what metal composition the press was constructed with.
  • Freakazoid! takes a shot at this in "The Island of Dr. Mystico." Freakazoid and a number of superpowered villains are held in a bamboo cage. When Freakazoid tries to bend the bars, Cave Guy says, "It's no use, we've already tried. It's molecular bamboo."
  • In the Green Lantern: The Animated Series episode "Steam Lantern", they spoof this trope with a material called hardtofindium because it's hard to find.
  • Ben 10 featured two such elements which, combined, formed an explosive capable of wiping out entire solar systems. Only one known sample of Element X exists while the other, Bicenthium alloy, is only found in appreciable quantities on Earth. Except it's iron, the sixth most common element in the galaxy.
  • The whole reason New Texas was founded in Bravestarr (and the reason it attracted criminals) was the discovery of a precious ore called carium, which had dozens of uses, literally. It could power spaceships and energy weapons, had medicinal properties (in fact, it seemed quite a few episodes introduced new uses for it). Unfortunately, even legitimate prospectors seemed to develop a type of "gold fever" when looking for the stuff.
  • The Simpsons "Treehouse of Horror" parody of Avatar has the mineral Hilarium, which has the power to make people laugh.
    Krusty: And I need some now, I've got a Nazi party rally coming up. Oh yeah, they're back.
  • Randy Cunningham: 9th Grade Ninja: Viceroy invents a Time Machine that is fueled by hardtogetium. He cannot get more fuel than needed for a round trip.
  • In VeggieTales's The Fennel Frontier, the rare element Mewantium, which is something everyone wants, is the cause of a lot of conflict.
  • The first two parts of the Spider-Man: The Animated Series three-part episode "The Alien Costume" heaviy feature a newly discovered substance brought back to Earth from space. Prometheum X as it is called, is a highly fissile material, that is also non-reactive unless heated, which means it can be used to make a massive explosion, yet you can also carry it around in your pocket. Fortunately for the heroes, after the villains obtain it they discover it's extraordinarilyshortexhalf-life. By the time they got it it's transmuted into inert lead.
  • From an episode of Danger Mouse : "Have you seen my prototype indestructible handcuffs? They're made of Convenientium, a metal so rare there wasn't enough left over to make a key".
  • The Ducktales 2017 episode "Whatever Happened To Della Duck" reveals that the Spear of Selene rocket runs on gold for fuel, which Scrooge apparently never thought of putting inside when Della crash lands on the moon.
  • He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2021) introduces kirbinite, a glowing purple metal, that is the only known mineral in the world capable of channeling cosmic energy. The Sword of Power is forged from it, and Skeletor seeks the elusive metal to upgrade his Havoc Staff and improve his own mastery of the power of Havoc.
  • Hailey's On It! has Haileytonium, an element that the main character Hailey Banks will discover in the future, some time after she completes her to-do list. It's an extremely potent renewable source of energy, powering everything in the future, and it's discovery will save the world from climate change.

    Real Life 
  • This is the notional material used in the manufacture of that very important tool or part which you can't seem to find anywhere. For example, at this time, 16 bit PCMCIA cards are one of many peripherals that can be said to be made of Unobtainium.
  • Though never mentioned as such, a particular brand of orange wire mesh used in Star Trek: The Original Series was produced by a company that went out of business in the mid-1970's; a substitute had to be acquired for the filming of the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Trials and Tribble-ations." This substitute mesh was correctly pointed out by episode writer David Gerrold as inaccurate to the original series.
  • There are many real world examples of unobtainium, perhaps making this one Truth in Television. While the ideas of Mithril and Vibranium actually existing on our earth may be laughable, the idea of a mineral/resource that is near impossible to obtain is almost a historical trope.
    • When Aluminium was first discovered, it was considered unobtainium, because although it's actually the most common metallic element on Earth, it was very difficult to extract from its ores. Hence, The Washington Monument was capped with a pyramidal ingot of pure aluminum, Napoleon III's sets of dinnerware made from aluminum, and the statue of Anteros in London. Then Hall (and, independently, Héroult) discovered an easy way to make aluminium, and it stopped being unobtainium two years later with the construction of the first large-scale aluminum refining plant. You're probably drinking out of an aluminum can right now.
      • Even today separating aluminum isn't as easy as you might think — it requires huge amounts of electrical power. Raw ore (bauxite) gets shipped around the world to take advantage of the cheapest possible electricity prices (Iceland smelts bauxite from South America to take advantage of its surplus geothermal power, while Quebec does the same to take advantage of its abundant hydroelectric power). It's also heavily recycled, as melting it down and re-casting it only requires 5% as much power as refining it.
    • Astatine: it was estimated that the amount of astatine in the planet barely can be gathered in a spoon, with around 30 grams existing on the entire Earth at any one time. This is because it is a product of radioactive decay, but is radioactive itself, with a half-life of 8.3 hours before decaying to lead.
      • It is also so radioactive that if you had enough astatine to be able to see it with the naked eye, you'd be dead from radiation poisoning in minutes.
    • The few who have ever attempted to make a cat's whisker radio (the radio that needs no electricity whatsoever) may have found out that finding a chunk of Galena (lead sulfide) can prove to be tricky. Though the mineral is the main source of lead today, to the average hobbyist it is not available. It was, however, more readily available to regular citizens in the old days due to its presence in the coal that powered the ubiquitous steam engines. Though there are workarounds, some hobbyists are willing to look around for a piece of it for an authentic galena radio.
  • During the Cold War, most of the significant titanium mines were either in the Soviet Union or elsewhere in the Eastern Bloc. As a result, Western aircraft designers often half-jokingly referred to the stuff as "unobtainium." The US was able to obtain some for its secret military projects, such as the SR-71 Blackbird, by using a long chain of middlemen buyers pretending to purchase it for other reasons. Eventually, new mines were discovered in Australia, South Africa, Canada, and Norway—all safely outside Soviet influence—and titanium stopped being unobtainium for the West. U.S. aircraft designers during this period are the Trope Namer.
    • On the other hand the largest producer in the world is still in Russia. Though they now sell to everyone, and actually almost all titanium Boeing now uses is bought from them.
  • Also during the Cold War, the US Air Force had a strong desire to develop antimatter bombs, perhaps feeling that hydrogen bombs just weren't apocalyptic enough. Fortunately, there is no known natural source of antimatter and no practical way to make it that can produce the macroscopic quantities of the stuff needed for bombs, and no practical way to contain the stuff safely enough for long enough to make such a weapon useful - critically, a nuclear bomb will not explode unless you want it to, while an antimatter bomb will always try to explode whether you want it to or not.
  • And yet again during the Cold War, a mythic substance known as "red mercury" was used for disinformation purposes by the Soviet Union. This substance was supposedly a high-temperature superconductor, a key ingredient in nuclear weapons, a ballotechnic and a component of certain types of stealth paint. It was apparently successfully used in a number of sting operations, since any organisation or rogue government seeking "red mercury" was clearly up to no good.
    • Red Mercury has since been used for further disinformation campaigns with a new description of being able to effectively turn conventional explosives into a nuclear sized detonation. Stories of its impossible seeming destructive properties have been used to swindle numerous volatile NGOs looking to cause havoc across the globe.
  • Fortunately for those concerned about rogue states or terrorists developing nuclear weapons, the required fissionable material is this. Plutonium does not occur naturally and must be manufactured in a nuclear reactor designed for the purpose. Uranium, while it can be mined, is all but useless for fueling a nuclear reaction in its natural state and must be enriched.note  The techniques involved in uranium enrichment require vast amounts of resources and specialized equipment, making it an expensive prospect for even a nation to attempt, let alone a terrorist group.note 
  • Wootz steel is a very specific historic case of this. It's made out of crucible-fired sand consisting of iron and tungsten carbide, which only naturally occurs in a very few places, almost all of them in central Asia. The process for making it was lost for centuries after the ore ran out, and was only rediscovered very recently through chemical analysis (the ore contained trace amounts of vanadium that created an unusual spiky crystal structure in the solidifying ingots). By all accounts, wootz steel is both stronger and more flexible than ordinary steel; back when swords were still used as weapons, Indo-Persian swords were highly valued throughout India and the Middle East because of this.
  • Pandemonium Chloride is the evil, HAZMAT twin of unobtainium, a material of unspecified composition that greatly endangers human life with the smallest spills or leaks.
    • Chlorine trifluoride is the real-world stuff. Derek Lowe has a nightmarish description at his blog. From that article, a quote from former U.S. Navy rocketry researcher and science fiction writer John Drury Clark: "It is, of course, extremely toxic, but that's the least of the problem. It is hypergolic (combusts spontaneously) with every known fuel, and so rapidly hypergolic that no ignition delay has ever been measured. It is also hypergolic with such things as cloth, wood, and test engineers, and asbestos, sand, and water—with which it reacts explosively."
    • Pandemonium was in fact an early name for the transuranic metal americium, which is highly radioactive. It was called such because it was extremely difficult to separate from the element curium which was originally called delirium. Amusingly enough, americium is today the transuranic element most likely to be found in your home, as it is a key component in most modern smoke detectors.
  • Greek Fire - Accounts say it was a combination of volatile chemicals in liquid form that, when launched, would burn on water. There are several possible candidates for its original formula, or possibly formulae, and modern researchers have been able to make compounds that behave in ways that fit the description using substances that would have been known and available at that time, but the exact makeup is lost to history.
  • Carbon nanotubes have immensely useful electronic, optical, and mechanical properties, including a strength-to-weight ratio vastly superior to any building material currently in use. Sadly, as of 2010, even poor grade nanotubes go for about $100/gram. Guess that space elevator will have to wait a few more years. The biggest problem with them at the moment is to avoid cumulative weakening, as at the moment the more nanotubes you stock together, the more the nanoscopic faults accumulate, until their strength is all but gone. Still, many scientists are confident that they'll have long and durable nanotube strings in a couple of years.
  • Mountain biker slang for a bike made of a rare or expensive material is also "unobtainium".
  • In the late 70's Silicon Valley, there were two popular materials for solving otherwise intractable engineering problems, very specifically: Unobtainium-12 and Expensium-6. Neither was in the Grainger's or Thomas catalog.
  • Rare-earth elements are used in most modern electronics, and aren't really rare, but they are hard to find in an economically-usable state. And, in addition, a very large fraction rare-earth mining is done in China. Because of their usefulness, worries that the Chinese government could cut off or severely reduce exports of it is enough that other countries have reopened mines almost solely so that they cannot be made into unobtainium of them. One of the main hurdles is that mining and processing them can create a staggering amount of toxic waste.
    • Dysprosium, one of the rare-earth elements, literally means "hard to get" because of the difficulty of isolating the pure metal.
  • NASCAR racer Junior Johnson had a friend in the aerospace industry who wanted him to try out a brand new material they'd cooked up: carbon fiber. Johnson sent him a pair of control arms to be copied in the material, and was astounded that they weighed less than a single steel arm. Since he was the only person with access to it, there were no rules preventing him from replacing as many parts as he liked with CF. The racing body only took notice of these parts when they were worried that his carbon brakes, visibly glowing from heat, might cause a tire fire.
    • Needless to say, carbon fiber is now commonly used in both Formula 1 cars and many high-end exotic cars, starting with the 1994 McLaren F1. It's starting to trickle down to everyday cars, Mercedes-Benz, Cadillac, and a couple other companies make cars with carbon fiber roofs (to lower the center of gravity for better handling), and other carbon fiber body parts are becoming more common.
  • Nuclear physics has created Exotic Matter in exceedingly minute quantities. Synthetic baryons (baryons are particles such as protons and neutrons) contain configurations other than the standard two up/one down, one up/two down, quark arrangements. Theoretically such femtotechnology could lead to a dazzling array of alternate chemistries. Thousands of alternate periodic tables may be possible, maybe more.
    • The synthetic baryons all decay rapidly (the order of 10^-10 sec or shorter half-lifes). The chemistry of an atom is determined by the electrons surrounding the nucleus. Atoms with synthetic baryons would be considered different isotopes of the same element.
    • Recently a Japanese team reported the discovery of a so-called tetraquark — an exotic baryon consisting of four quarks instead of a normal three. Despite being roughly equally important to modern particle physics, the news were drowned by the buzz of a Higgs boson discovery, which has much better publicity.
  • The platinoid metal rhenium has all types of possible uses, mainly because it gives nearly magical properties to the metals it is alloyed with. Unfortunately, it is so incredibly rare and expensive that it's used mainly in aircraft engines, where its cost can be justified. Not coincidentally, it was the very last of the stable elements to be discovered, in 1925.
  • Wood for shipbuilding was an Unobtanium for Venice and for England and other similar naval empires. Not just any wood but the right kind of wood for the right jobs. Trees that had longer trunks, for instance, received favor, for their utility in building certain long parts of ships; oak was favored for many purposes—especially for warships—because it is sturdier (with live oak from the American South being particularly prized); trees with tall, straight trunks were needed to build masts; and pine was needed to produce pitch and tar, needed for waterproofing and other purposes (e.g. preventing shipworm from afflicting their vessels). Hence Wooden Ships and Iron Men. This could often be an element and not always a positive one in the relations between Britain and America and Scandinavian countries, both of which were among the main suppliers. The loss of the American supply of timber, pitch, and tar for the Royal Navy was actually a key catalyst for the Industrial Revolution; the search for a source of pitch led a particularly hapless poor Scottish earl to develop processes to efficiently produce coal tar, which directly led to the first gas lighting (and therefore the 24-hour factory and shift work) and indirectly led to the modern chemical industry. (Ironically, these processes didn't go anywhere with their original purpose; the Navy decided to cover the bottoms of its ships with copper plates to protect them against shipworm and other rot instead of coal tar.)
    • Earlier the English were responsible for converting yew into the wooden Unobtanium du jour due to their legendary enthusiasm for longbows. While yew trees were common throughout Europe, good knot-free lengths suitable for bowmaking were rare. By the 15th century the English had instituted an import fee payable in yew staves on every ship coming into the country, and forests as far away as Austria were being pillaged for yew. Only the introduction of guns put a stop to the demand.
  • Petroleum. Oil is needed to power a vast variety of modern-day vehicles, and without it, they would not function. It is worth tons of money, and those who extract and sell it have become world leaders.
    • There's an often overlooked significance to petroleum. Beyond its primary role as an energy resource (which has plenty of substitutes), the waste product of petroleum processing is *sulphur* - heavily used in industry, agriculture and medicine. Petroleum made sulphur cheap. It would be easy to ration fuel for tractors in an emergency - but without the sulphur, we'd lose fertilizers.
    • It's also the main source of lubricants and the only source for chemicals needed to produce everything from plastic to synthetic rubber.
  • Amateur chemist Maurice Ward claimed to have invented a material called Starlite, a largely organic compound which could withstand and insulate against incredible amounts of heat. In one live demonstration, an egg coated in the stuff was exposed to blowtorch flame for five minutes- after which the egg remained uncooked and cool enough to handle without protection. Despite allowing various scientific bodies to run tests on the material, Maurice kept the manufacturing process a closely guarded secret. He died in 2011, taking the secret formula with him, and leaving only a limited quantity of extant Starlite.
    • ThermaShield now claims to have obtained the formula from Maurice's family, and seems to have replicated the results.
  • During the presentation of the accident report for the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster, board chairman retired Admiral Harold Gehman said that the goal for the US human space flight program should be to get humans in and out of low earth orbit, that the goal is not to build the vehicle nor "add a whole lot of bells and whistles to this thing, like single-stage-to-orbit and build it out of the famous Unobtanium material"

Alternative Title(s): Unobtanium



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