16 Most Expensive Liquids On Earth [As Of 2021]

Did you know there exist some liquids that are more expensive than gold? Today, we are going to talk about those kinds of liquids. If you are expecting any hard-core liquid or alcohol, then you would be quite disappointed. 

From scorpion venom and horseshoe crab blood to gamma-hydroxybutyrate acid, we have elaborated on some of the most expensive liquids available in the world. All listed items are measured in gallons, the British imperial system of measurement.

16. Liquid Paper – $200 per gallon

Liquid Paper is a Newell Rubbermaid brand that sells correction pens, correction fluids, and correction tape. Bette Nesmith Graham invented the first correction fluid in 1956. She offered the product to IBM, and unexpectedly, the company declined her offer.

Graham sold the fluid for 17 years from her house. By 1968, the product was profitable, and in 1979 she sold the royalties to the Gillette Corporation for $47.5 million.

Why it has a high price tag? 

According to Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), the Liquid Paper contains solvent naphtha, resins, titanium dioxide, mineral spirits, dispersants, and fragrances, which make the small Liquid Paper bottle quite expensive.

15. Scintillation Cocktail – $210 per gallon

Every liquid scintillation cocktail contains one or more scintillators and at least one organic solvent. It usually contains a combination of surfactants to be able to hold aqueous samples.

Scintillation cocktails are used in experiments for detecting alpha and beta particles. The scintillator’s molecules (dissolved in the solvent) absorb the energy released by the solvent and re-emit it as visible light of wavelengths close to 420 nanometers. They typically have a high Fluorescence Quantum Yield and a fast decay time.

Why it has a high price tag? 

Each scintillation cocktail is checked for sample acceptance, chemiluminescence, sample capacity, clarity, photoluminescence, and counting efficiency. These additional processes inflate the price of the liquid. 

14. Penicillin – $300 per gallon

Penicillins (also called PEN) are a group of antibiotics that include penicillin V, penicillin G, benzathine penicillin, and procaine penicillin. The ones that are used to treat bacterial infections are synthesized from naturally-produced penicillins.

It was first discovered by Alexander Fleming in 1928. A couple of years later, Fleming’s student Cecil George Paine successfully used penicillin to treat an eye infection. In 1940, Ernst Boris Chain and Howard Florey isolated the purified compound, penicillin F. For this discovery, Fleming, Chain, and Florey won the 1945 Noble Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

Why does it cost so much?

Penicillin is used to treat various infections caused by certain susceptible bacteria, including Listeria genera, Clostridium and Streptococci. It can also be used to fight against lung infection in children, dental abscesses, tonsillitis, middle ear infections, and for preventing recurrence of rheumatic fever.

Penicillins have high demand, and only a few companies in the world produce the active ingredient for penicillin. And since the medicine provides low operating profit margins, those companies keep production levels low.

13. Patchouli Oil – $810 per gallon

Patchouli is a species of plant from the genus Pogostemon. It is cultivated in Indonesia, India, China, Thailand, Malaysia, and the Philippines. Its oil is distilled from the fresh or dried leaves and flowers of various species of Pogostemon. Indonesia produces more than 1,600 metric tons of patchouli oil, which is equivalent to 90% of the global volume. 

Patchouli has anti-inflammatory properties. It is used in modern perfumery by celebrities who create their own scents or scented personal products.

The patchouli oil precipitates mild sedation, which is helpful in taking the edge off acute pain and sorrow. It’s a mood enhancer and antidepressant and works as an antiseptic.

The oil can also be used to treat cold and fever, fungal infections. It prevents kidney and gallbladder stones and fights bad breath and body odor.

Why does it cost so much?

Patchouli oil goes through numerous steps before being by manufacturers, such as farmers, intermediaries, and collectors. Research shows that traders and colletors earn up to 10 times more than farmers. Although intermediary traders contribute nothing to the added value of the product, they get the highest profit margin.

12. Cover Girl Nail Polish – $900 per gallon

Nail varnish can be cheap, but the average cost of a little bottle puts it on the 11th position of the list. Either colored or plain, most of the nail polishes are made of nitrocellulose dissolved in a solvent such as ethyl acetate or butyl acetate.

Modern nail polish contains a film-forming polymer dissolved in an organic solvent. To obtain the glittery look in the color, it is mixed with mica, bismuth oxychloride, aluminum powder, and natural pearls.

What makes nail polish expensive?

The quality brands cost high because they include plasticizers (to yield non-brittle films), dyes, pigments, adhesive polymers (to ensure nitrocellulose adheres to the nail’s surface), thickening agents (to maintain sparkling particles), and ultraviolet stabilizers (to resist color changes).

11. Human Blood – $1,500 per gallon

The human blood is a combination of plasma and cells that float in it. It supplies necessary nutrients and substances like oxygen, sugar, and hormones to our cells and carries waste away from those cells.

In medicine, ‘whole blood’ is a type of transfusion used to treat patients who need large amounts of all of the components of blood, such as those who have sustained blood loss due to surgery or trauma.

Why is it expensive?

We all carry around 5 liters of blood with us all the time, so it isn’t something rare. But the processing and safely storing the blood is an expensive process. Although the price varies geographically, in general, the cost of running blood donation campaigns and managing blood banks continues to rise.

Read: 30 Surprising Facts About Blood You Might Not Know

10. Gamma Hydroxybutyric Acid (GHB) – $2,600 per gallon

GHB is a Central Nervous System (CNS) depressant, commonly referred to as a “club drug”. It is a chemical found in the brain and other areas of the body. It is also found in small quantities in some beers, wines, beef, and citrus fruits. 

GHB can be synthesized in a laboratory. It has been widely used as a general anesthetic and as a treatment for narcolepsy and alcoholism. Teens and young adults often abuse GHB at bars and parties by mixing it in alcoholic beverages.

What makes it expensive?

GHB is made from a combination of gamma-butyrolactone and potassium hydroxide or sodium hydroxide. It is synthesized illegally in both foreign and domestic clandestine labs. The significant source of the GHB on streets is through clandestine synthesis by local operators. It is also illegally used as an intoxicant for enhancing athletic performance.

However, the prescription form of GHB (approved by FDA) is used for narcolepsy (daytime sleepiness), opioid withdrawal, and alcohol use disorder.

9. Black Printer Ink – $2,700

Ink is a semi-liquid compound used for writing, drawing, and printing. Like paint, it is made from organic or inorganic pigments that are dissolved in a chemical solvent.

The ink costs more in the long run than even the printer itself. Black ink is the key to printing almost everything. It is even used when printing with other colors. This means there is no way you can avoid using black ink.

Most color inkjets utilize the CMYK color model, which stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and the Key, black. Over the years, two separate kinds of black have been commercialized: a near-waterproof variant for printing text and another variant that blends easily with other colors for graphical printing.

Why is it expensive?

Black ink is made by combining carbon black and varnish. It contains some additives like lubricants, waxes, pigments, surfactants, and drying agents to aid printing and to impart any desired special characteristics.

Pigments are a significant part of the ink. They are crushed and displaced evenly throughout the fluids.  In addition to giving ink its color, they make it heat resistant and help it to survive against various solvents. They are often mixed with opacifiers, which make the ink opaque.

8. Mercury – $3,400 per gallon

Mercury occurs naturally in the environment and is typically found in the form of its common ore cinnabar – mercury sulfide. To extract pure mercury, the ore is ground up and heated up to 580 degrees Celsius in the presence of oxygen. 

Liquid mercury is a dense, silvery-white metal. Unlike most other metals, it is a poor conductor of heat but a fair conductor of electricity.

Why is it so expensive?

Mercury is the only metal that stays in the liquid state at room temperature. Therefore, it can be used as a liquid contact material for electric switches. It is traditionally used in medicine and certain eclectic batteries. 

Because of its high density, it is used in manometers, barometers, and thermometers. It is also used in the production of chlorine and sodium hydroxide. 

Since this liquid form vaporizes at room temperatures, it can be dangerous. When liquid mercury vaporizes, it fills the surrounding air with invisible and scentless mercury atoms that easily get absorbed by the body. These molecules can reach into the blood (through lungs) and eventually into the brain, causing sleep disorders, agitation, and paralysis.

That’s why liquid mercury must be handled with care. Cleaning up spilled liquid is even more complex than most people realize. Its molecules can remain on carpets and tiles for years unless the material is properly decontaminated.

7. Insulin – $9,400 per gallon

Insulin is a protein hormone produced by the pancreas in your body. It regulates the amount of glucose in your bloodstream and promotes the absorption of glucose into liver, fat, and skeletal muscle cells. It is also responsible for controlling your body’s metabolism of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates.

If your body doesn’t produce enough insulin or doesn’t utilize it properly, you are ultimately diagnosed with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, respectively. In severe cases, you are prescribed to take insulin either by single-use syringes with needles or by repeated-use insulin pens with disposable needles.

Why does it cost so much?

The prices of insulin have more than tripled in the past 15 years. There are multiple reasons behind such drastic price hikes:

  • Captive Market: Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes patients can’t live without insulin. They have to pay what the seller demands.
  • No Competition: There are only a few manufactures of all the insulin used in the United States.
  • No Generics: Anyone wanting to manufacture a ‘biosimilar’ insulin has to pass extremely strict tests to be allowed to sell it.

6. Chanel No. 5 – $26,000 per gallon

Chanel No. 5 is one of the world’s most expensive perfumes, first went on sale in 1922. It was the first perfume launched by French couturier Gabrielle Coco Chanel. The chemical formula for the fragrance was compounded by the Russian-French perfumer and chemist Ernest Beaux.

What makes this perfume so expensive?

Rare flower petals or the essence of a rare root makes Chanel No. 5 expensive. It is the first perfume made with the floral-aldehyde group. The top notes are composed of aldehydes, lemons, neroli, bergamot, rose, lily, the heart of jasmine, while the base is created with sandalwood, amber, vanilla, patchouli, and vetiver.

The process used to make this perfume has changed little since 1921, except for the exclusion of natural civet and certain nitro-musks.

5. Horseshoe Crab Blood – $60,000 per gallon

Image credit: CNN 

Did you know that horseshoe crabs have been around for 450 million years? They are older than dinosaurs, and they’ve seen the rise and fall of millions of other species.

They live primarily in and around shallow ocean water on soft sandy and muddy bottoms. They occasionally come onto shore to mate.

The blood of horseshoe crabs is harvested in large quantities. The blood doesn’t have hemoglobin; instead, horseshoe crabs use hemocyanin to carry oxygen. Their blood is bright blue because it contains copper.

Why does it cost so much?

Besides copper, horseshoe crabs’ blood contains vital immune cells that are incredibly sensitive to toxic bacteria. When these cells come in contact with bacteria, they clot around it, protecting the rest of the horseshoe crab’s body from toxins.

Researchers used these smart blood cells to create a test called Limulus Amebocyte Lysate (LAL). Since the 1970s, LAL has been widely used across the world to test new vaccines for contamination.

Every year, the medical industry catches more than 500,000 horseshoe crabs. They then drain 30% of their blood, and nearly 1/3 of the crabs die during the process. The survivors are returned to the water.

According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, the population of horseshoe crabs could fall as much as 30% over the next 4 decades. Researchers are trying to find alternative methods to minimize the strain on the crab population. However, LAL is still required by the FDA to conduct certain types of tests.

4. LSD – $123,000 per gallon

LSD (short for Lysergic acid Diethylamide) is made from lysergic acid, which is found in the ergot fungus that grows on rye. It is produced in crystal form in illegal laboratories, especially in the US. These crystals are converted into a liquid state for distribution. It is colorless, odorless, and has a quite bitter taste.

The use of LSD among American adults increased 56% from 2015 to 2018. As of 2017, nearly 10% of US citizens have used LSD at some point in their lives.

Why does it cost so much?

LSD is one of the most potent, mood-changing chemicals that is completely illegal and very hard to come by. LSD requires special technical skills: it is far more technically demanding than the production of most other illicit chemicals. It is incredibly risky to make and distribute. 

LSD users describe the experience as a “trip,” lasting 12 hours or so. When things go wrong (and that usually happens), it is called a ‘bad trip”, another name for a living hell. One gallon would be enough to send about 55,000 people on the trip for their lifetime.

3. Thailand Cobra Venom – $153,000 per gallon

Image source: Newsweek

The king cobra is one of the longest and most venomous snakes on earth. It is capable of killing a full-grown elephant. With just one bite, the victim immediately suffers from symptoms like vertigo, blurred vision, drowsiness, and paralysis before falling into a coma. Soon, death becomes inevitable due to respiratory failure.

The major components of cobra venom are postsynaptic neurotoxins, myotoxins, and cardiotoxins. Postsynaptic neurotoxins block nerve transmission by binding specifically to the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor, which eventually results in flaccid paralysis and even death by respiratory failure.

Some components of venoms could leave a long-lasting impact on various physiological aspects, mainly associated with the immune system, not visible during envenomation.

Why is the price so high?

The venom has been used to treat pain for many years. It was once even thought to be an aphrodisiac. This specialized saliva is also used to: 

  • Stop excessive bleeding during surgery or major trauma
  • Findings cure for breast cancer and Parkinson’s disease
  • Anti-aging treatment

The venom possesses multiple biological functions useful in translational research, such as the design of diagnostic tests, the analysis of the pathogenesis of various diseases, the development of drugs.

Read: 20 Rarest And Most Expensive Materials On Earth

2. Scorpion Venom – $39,000,000 per gallon

With an alarming price of 39 million dollars per gallon, scorpion venom is considered to be the most expensive liquid on earth.

Scorpions use their venom to paralyze or kill their prey and as a defense against predators. There are thousands of species of scorpion, but only 25 have venom that is deadly for humans.

More specifically, scorpion venom is a neurotoxin that affects the nervous system. Among the most dangerous scorpion species is the deathstalker. Its scientific name is Leiurus quinquestriatus, a member of the family Buthidae.

What makes it so expensive?

The venom is hard to get. Scorpions are usually milked by hand, one by one. And one scorpion produces only 2 milligrams of venom at a time. If you do the math, you would have to milk scorpions 2.64 million times to fill a gallon.

The protein present in the venom can be used for the treatment of conditions like inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis.

It contains a mixture of biological chemicals called peptides, which are known to trigger cell death by generating pores in biological membranes. One small peptide, known as TsAP-1, has anti-microbial and anti-cancer properties.

Researchers have found that scorpion venom can also be used to treat brain tumors in humans. Instead of damaging healthy nerve and muscle cells, some components of the venom can effectively block signals from cancer cells, preventing them from growing.

Read: 14 Most Expensive Software In The World

1. Zolgensma — $2.1 million per dose (5.5 mL)

Zolgensma

Zolgensma (also known as Onasemnogene abeparvovec) is used to treat a rare neuromuscular disorder called spinal muscular atrophy. It was approved by FDA in 2019 as a treatment for children less than two years old.

It is a one-time-only gene therapy treatment. Once zolgensma is injected into a vein, it starts replacing the missing or non-functioning SMN1 (survival of motor neuron 1) gene with a new, working copy of a human SMN gene.

Why does it cost so much? 

Developing and testing a revolutionary medicine takes billions of dollars. Like most successful medicines, zolgensma’s price reflects the high cost of its research and development and the value it delivers.

On average, it takes $2.6 billion and more than a decade to create a single new medicine. Most of the studies do not yield any fruitful results; only a few medicines or treatment procedures make it to the clinical trials. And just 14% of those end up getting FDA approval.

Given the high probability of failure, manufacturing and research companies must rely on a handful of successful medicines to recoup their investments and fund future projects. 

Read: 17 Best Science And Technology Research Labs In The World

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the most expensive liquor in the world?

D’Amalfi Limoncello Supreme is the most expensive liquor in the world, with a price tag of a whopping $43.64 million. While the liquor is produced in the Amalfi coast, which is renowned for its sweet lemons and distinctive flavor, the price is mostly due to the bottle. The neck of the bottle has three flawless 13-carat diamonds, and the front has a rare 18.5-carat diamond.

What are the most valuable brands worldwide?

Apple is currently the most valuable brand globally, with an estimated brand value of over $263 billion. The second and third leading brands are Amazon and Google, with a brand value of more than $254 billion and 191 billion, respectively.

Read: 5 Types Of Industries [With Examples]

What is the most expensive man-made object?

The International Space Station (ISS) is the most expensive man-made machine. It took a total of $150 billion to develop and build this modular space station, with NASA picking up most of that bill while Europe, Canada, Russia, and Japan each contributed. Furthermore, NASA spends up to $4 billion per year to operate and maintain the Station.

Written by
Varun Kumar

Varun Kumar is a professional science and technology journalist and a big fan of AI, machines, and space exploration. He received a Master's degree in computer science from GGSIPU University. To find out about his latest projects, feel free to directly email him at [email protected] 

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