The origin of 'Unobtainium' - it was not made up for Avatar

28 February 2023

 unobtainium word origin

The term "unobtainium" is a wordplay that refers to a hypothetical substance that is impossible or difficult to obtain, either because it is rare, expensive, or simply beyond the limits of current technology. The term has been used in the scientific and engineering communities to describe materials that have desirable properties but are challenging to obtain or produce.

According to the Wikipedia page on "Unobtainium," the term was first used in the aerospace industry in the 1950s and 1960s to describe materials that were needed for advanced aerospace applications, such as high-temperature alloys for engines and heat shields, or lightweight, high-strength composites for airframes. The term was also used in the mining industry to describe minerals that were difficult to extract or refine, such as platinum group metals or rare earth elements.

In recent years, the term "unobtainium" has become more widely known and popular, thanks in part to its use in Hollywood movies such as The Core and Avatar. In The Core, unobtainium is used as a fictional substance that is needed to power a machine that can restart the Earth's core. In Avatar, unobtainium is a valuable mineral that is found on the moon Pandora and is coveted by humans for its commercial and military applications.

The use of unobtainium in these movies has helped to popularize the term and has made it more recognizable to a wider audience. It has also led to some confusion and misuse of the term, as people may assume that unobtainium is a real substance or may use the term to describe any material that is difficult to obtain or produce.

Overall, the origin and use of the term "unobtainium" highlight the importance of materials science and engineering in the modern world, as well as the power of popular culture to influence our language and ideas. Whether as a fictional substance in movies or a real challenge for scientists and engineers, unobtainium remains an intriguing and elusive concept that captures our imagination and challenges our ingenuity.


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About the author Jimmy Jangles

My name is Jimmy Jangles, the founder of The Astromech. I have always been fascinated by the world of science fiction, especially the Star Wars universe, and I created this website to share my love for it with fellow fans.

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