What Are Some Fun Facts About the Elements?

Actinium (Ac)

  • Actinium glows blue in the dark.
  • An isotope of actinium is being researched for potential chemotherapy treatments.
  • Ironically, if ingested, it could also cause cancer (it is radioactive, after all!).
  • Due to its high production of neutrons, it is used in research.

Aluminum (Al)

  • It is the third most abundant element on Earth (after oxygen and silicon)
  • On its own, it’s pretty useless (and very rare), but in compounds, it’s the most used metal in the world (without iron in it).
  • It was once more expensive than gold or silver.
  • The spelling “aluminum” is fairly exclusive to the US-everywhere else calls it “aluminium,” as that was how its discoverer named it.
  • It doesn’t rust, but forms a transparent oxide (called corundum) that is one of the hardest known substances in existence.
  • Aluminum oxide makes for a very effective passivation layer for solar cells.

Americium (Am)

  • It was made (and first discovered) as a by-product of the Manhattan Project.
  • Smoke detectors use it.

Antimony (Sb)

  • Lead antimony compounds are used in bullets.
  • Batteries, flame-proof materials, and glass use it.
  • The ancient Egyptians even used a compound of antimony for mascara.
  • It is used in electronics.

Argon (Ar)

  • It gives a sky blue glow when a current passes through it.
  • Used in nearly every neon light.
  • It is the third most prevalent gas in the atmosphere.
  • It displaces oxygen, making it useful in preserving documents and helping incandescent bulb filaments last longer (by keeping them from oxidizing).

Arsenic (As)

  • Oxidized arsenic smells like garlic.
  • It is used as a pesticide.
  • Though arsenic is toxic, it can be used for cancer treatment (specifically, acute promyelocytic leukemia).
  • Arsenic is a common electron donor (dopant) for use in semiconductors.

Astatine (At)

  • It is hypothesized that less than an ounce exists worldwide.
  • Astatine is the rarest naturally occurring element on Earth.
  • It decays so quickly, that it cannot be seen with the naked eye (as it would appear to vanish!).
  • It has a half-life of 8.3 hours.

Barium (Ba)

  • Some barium compounds give off a green flame.
  • Breathing barium dust can damage the lungs.
  • It is commonly used in vacuum tubes.
  • Used to increase contrast in the digestive system for x-ray imaging.

Berkelium (Bk)

  • It tends to accumulate in the skeletal system, as with other actinide elements.
  • Berkelium (named after Berkeley, California) is produced from Americium.
  • It’s used only for research.

Beryllium (Be)

  • Beryllium was once called glucine due to the fact that its salts taste sweet.
  • Cell phones are partly made with beryllium.
  • It is stronger than steel.
  • It is one of the lightest elements.
  • Beryllium melts at about 2,350 °F (about 1290 °C).
  • Tools are made with beryllium to prevent sparking.

Bismuth (Bi)

  • Pepto-Bismol is 57% bismuth.
  • Its radioactivity is so small it is completely negligible.
  • It is the heaviest stable (non-radioactive) element.
  • Its half-life is 1.9 x 1019 years, the longest non-theorized half-life of any other element.

Bohrium (Bh)

  • It’s named after Niels Bohr.
  • There isn’t much information on it due to its short half-life (the most stable isotope’s half-life is about 61 seconds).

Boron (B)

  • It’s the main ingredient in oobleck.
  • A common compound with boron is borax.
  • Boron is necessary in plant growth.
  • It burns bright green.
  • It’s added to glass to make it stronger against thermal shock.
  • It has a Mohs hardness of 9.5 (compare to diamond with a hardness of 10).
  • Boron is a common electron acceptor (donor).

Bromine (Br)

  • It is the only nonmetal to be a liquid at room temperature (and the only liquid element at room temperature besides mercury!).
  • Flame retardant materials use bromine.
  • Our bodies are 0.0004% bromine.
  • It is used in pesticides.
  • Citrus-flavored sodas contain bromine as brominated vegetable oil.

Cadmium (Cd)

  • It is used in blue and green phosphors for color television tubes.
  • Cadmium is so chemically similar to zinc that it’s named after it! (Cadmium from “cadmia,” Latin for “calamine,” which is zinc ore).
  • Yellow oil paint derives its color from cadmium.
  • It is naturally resistant to corrosion.
  • Rechargeable batteries need cadmium to function.
  • When combined with other metals, it lowers their melting points.
  • Cadmium telluride is a common thin film photovoltaic material.

Cesium/Caesium (Cs)

  • It is pyrophoric, i.e., it spontaneously combusts in air.
  • It instantly explodes when in contact with water.
  • Cesium has a waxy consistency.
  • Cesium is used in how we count time! The definition of a second is the time it takes a cesium-133 atom to vibrate 9,192,631,770 times between energy levels. They lose one second per 100 million years, so it’s safe to say atomic clocks are pretty accurate!

Calcium (Ca)

  • Calcium isn’t just common in bones and teeth, but also soil, eggshells, cement, and limestone.
  • Calcium ions are necessary for the brain to send signals to the body.
  • About 2 pounds of our body is made of calcium!
  • It’s the fifth most abundant element on Earth.
  • Its salts are used to produce orange colors in fireworks.
  • If calcium levels are too low in the human body, bones will dissolve to give blood the calcium it needs.

Californium (Cf)

  • It is used to treat certain cervical and brain cancers.
  • Californium is useful in finding gold and silver in rocks, oil at the bottom of wells, and detecting explosives.
  • Portable metal detectors use it.
  • It does not occur naturally, but is formed by colliding helium nuclei with curium atoms.

Carbon (C)

  • Diamonds and graphite are both just carbon-the only difference is their molecular structure!
  • Diamond wire saws are used in cutting silicon wafers for use in electronics.
  • About 20% of the weight of living organisms is carbon.
  • Materials researchers focus heavily on carbon, from the 2D material graphene to carbon nanotubes.
  • Diamonds aren’t just pretty: diamond tips are used for industrial cutting and drilling.
  • Tires containing carbon are strengthened and protected against UV damage.
  • Ionsdaleite, an allotrope of carbon, is 58% stronger than diamond.
  • Carbon has the highest melting point of all elements (3550 oC, or 6420 oF).

Cerium (Ce)

  • It is the most abundant of the rare earth metals.
  • UV lasers with cerium search for ozone and sulfur dioxide in the atmosphere.
  • Cerium oxide (CeO2) is used in internal combustion engine fuel to produce fewer pollutants.
  • Cerium compounds are used to make red and orange phosphors.
  • Scratching the surface will produce a flame, as cerium reacts quickly with oxygen. This makes it useful for flint lighters.

Chlorine (Cl)

  • Not only was it a potent weapon in World War I, but it has some beneficial uses in medicine, water purification, and in salt as sodium chloride (NaCl).
  • Although chlorine gas is 2.5 times denser than air, it is a destructive pollutant that eats away at the ozone layer. This is because the atmosphere is dynamic, and air’s constant motion will bring chlorine compounds to the upper atmosphere.
  • It’s yellowish-green in color.
  • It is used in making rubber and PVC (polyvinyl chloride).
  • Since salt is NaCl, there is chlorine in your blood!

Chromium (Cr)

  • Chromium is what makes stainless steel stainless. It forms chromium oxide on the surface, shielding the steel (iron carbide) from forming rust (iron oxide). The reason why this chrome “rust” is beneficial rather than harmful is that the chromium oxides are closer in atomic spacing to each other than iron oxides.
  • It hardens steel.
  • Fittingly named, chromium (from “chroma,” or color in Greek) makes compounds of virtually all colors, including: red, reddish-orange, yellow, green, blue-green, and violet.
  • It makes emeralds green and rubies red.
  • Small amounts of trivalent (with three valence electrons) chromium are needed to process sugar and lipids.
  • Hexavalent (with six valence electrons) chromium and its compounds are carcinogenic and highly toxic.

Cobalt (Co)

  • It’s in our bodies! Vitamin B12 contains cobalt, which is necessary for blood formation and the nervous system.
  • Cobalt compounds make glass blue.
  • Scientists have been able to capture an image of an electron’s spin changing for the first time in a cobalt atom.
  • Do you play guitar? Well the pickups use magnets containing cobalt.
  • Cobalt stays magnetic at higher temperatures than any other magnetic element (up to 1121oC, or 2050oF).

Copernicium (Cn)

  • Only a few atoms have been produced. It was produced by ionic bombardment, but it has also been seen as a product of flerovium decay.
  • It is used for research.
  • Its most stable isotope (copernicium-285), has a half-life of only 30 seconds!

Copper (Cu)

  • Copper is naturally antibacterial. Brass doorknobs are commonly used so bacteria doesn’t spread in public areas.
  • The ancient Egyptians used copper in surgical equipment because of its antibacterial properties.
  • Copper is highly conductive and corrosion resistant.
  • Though humans have mined about 1.1 trillion pounds of copper, there are still another 7 trillion pounds to be mined! Since copper is 100% recyclable, we won’t be using all of it up any time soon.
  • Tools made of copper don’t cause sparks.
  • Brass is copper with zinc; bronze is copper with tin.
  • When exposed to air, it turns from reddish-orange to brown. When water is added to the mix, it turns green.
  • Our bodies need it to survive.

Curium (Cm)

  • It accumulates in bones and stops the formation of red bloods cells.
  • It is highly radioactive.
  • Curium glows purple in the dark (click “purple” for image credit).
  • It was used to measure elements in rocks and soil on Mars.

Darmstadtium (Ds)

  • It has a half-life of about a quarter of a millisecond (270 microseconds).
  • Only a few atoms have been produced, so not much is known about it.

Dubnium (Db)

  • Because of its place on the periodic table, it is expected to behave like the transition metals. It would be most similar to tantalum.
  • Not much else is known about it since only few atoms have been produced.

Dysprosium (Dy)

  • It can be cut with a knife.
  • A dysprosium oxide nickel cement aids in cooling nuclear reactor rods.
  • Laser materials are produced with dysprosium and various rare earth elements.
  • It is used to produce fuel injectors.

Einsteinium (Es)

  • It glows blue in the dark, due to its high radioactivity.
  • When the first hydrogen bomb test was executed, einsteinium was discovered for the first time in the debris.
  • Pure einsteinium is difficult to study due to its short half-life, so not much is known.

Erbium (Er)

  • Erbium oxide makes glass pink.
  • It can add a pink color to cubic zirconia.
  • Lasers use it.
  • Erbium is combined with vanadium to make it softer and more malleable.
  • On its own, it’s slightly toxic; in compounds, it may help boost metabolism.

Europium (Eu)

  • Of the rare earth metals, europium is the most reactive.
  • Computer monitors use it for blue, red, and white colors.
  • It is used in bank notes to distinguish between genuine and counterfeit notes.
  • Some energy-efficient light bulbs use europium.
  • It is used to form laser material.

Fermium (Fm)

  • When the first hydrogen bomb test was executed, fermium was discovered for the first time in the debris, along with einsteinium.
  • Not much is known, but it is being used for research.

Flerovium (Fl)

  • It is highly radioactive.
  • Due to its place on the periodic table, it’s possible that it has properties similar to lead.
  • It is used in research.

Fluorine (F)

  • Fluorine is the most reactive element on Earth.
  • In a test tube as a gas, it will appear yellow looking down and colorless from the side.
  • Liquid hydrofluoric acid is so reactive, small splashes on the skin can be fatal. This is because fluoride ions bond easily with calcium, which is necessary in our blood.
  • Hydrofluoric acid can dissolve glass and it is still safer than pure fluorine.
  • As a liquid, it is bright yellow.
  • It is so reactive that it will even bond with some noble gases (krypton, xenon, and radon).
  • It is one of the few elements which will react with diamond.
  • Though common on Earth, it is rare in the universe.
  • Fluorine doped tin oxide (FTO) shows promise as a low cost transparent conducting oxide (TCO).

Francium (Fr)

  • It is the second rarest element in the Earth’s crust (next to astatine).
  • The most stable isotope has a half-life of 22 minutes; the least stable has a half-life of 3.5 nanoseconds.
  • It is the most unstable of the naturally occurring elements.

Gadolinium (Gd)

  • It has superconductive properties.
  • When placed in a magnetic field, its temperature increases, i.e., it is magnetocaloric.
  • It appears slightly yellow.
  • MRI patients have gadolinium injected into them to increase the image contrast.
  • Computer chips, CDs, TVs, and microwave ovens are manufactured using gadolinium.

Gallium (Ga)

  • It’s a metal that melts in your hand!
  • Blue or violet LEDs use gallium.
  • Forms a mirror when applied to glass.
  • Like water, it expands as it freezes.
  • Gallium ions are antibacterial and are used in pharmaceuticals.
  • Semiconductors are often made with gallium.

Germanium (Ge)

  • Electronics use germanium in fiber optics, transistors, and semiconductors.
  • As it freezes, it expands.
  • If you’ve used a remote control, or went to a store with automatic doors, you’ve come into contact with germanium.
  • While some solar cells are made with germanium, its high cost and rarity restricts its use to space solar cells.

Gold (Au)

  • It does not rust nor tarnish in air.
  • There is no metal more malleable and ductile than gold.
  • Gold is the sixth densest metal.
  • One ounce of gold can be beaten into a 100 square foot (9 square meter) sheet or drawn into a 1250 mile (about 2000 kilometers) long wire.
  • It can be beaten into a sheet of just one micron. A sheet of paper is 1000 times thicker than this.
  • Rutherford’s Gold Foil Experiment revealed that atoms have nuclei. He passed alpha particles through a gold foil, expecting them to pass through. More particles were deflected than expected for an atom of evenly spread matter, and the only explanation was that they deflected off of a nucleus. This also implied (and revealed) that atoms are mostly empty space!
  • Gold is used in electronics and wiring, since it’s a good conductor.
  • Liquid gold injections help ease rheumatoid arthritis pain. It’s chemically liquefied, so no 2000°F (1100°C) hot metal to worry about!
  • Space suit helmets use it for protection against radiation.

Hafnium (Hf)

  • Powdered hafnium is pyrophoric (ignites spontaneously in air).
  • As a solid, it’s corrosion resistant, as it forms a film on the surface when exposed to air.
  • Powdered hafnium nitride has a melting point of about 6000°F (or 3300°C). To put it into perspective, it’s melting point is 60% the temperature of the sun’s surface!
  • Space rocket engines use it for its heat resistant properties.
  • Incandescent lamps use hafnium.

Hassium (Hs)

  • It’s used in research.
  • It has such a short half-life that not much is known about it.

Helium (He)

  • It’s the second most abundant element in the universe.
  • It is non-flammable.
  • Helium atoms are lighter than air.
  • Close to absolute zero temperatures (-450°F, or -268°C), it is a superfluid. One amazing property of this is that it can rise up the walls of its container and climb out!
  • Solid helium is hard to produce: it must be at a temperature of 0.95K (-458°F, or -272°C) and at 25 atmospheres of pressure.
  • Sound travels three times faster in helium than air.This is why your voice sounds so high after inhaling it. For a deeper explanation, click here.
  • Liquid helium makes for a good coolant for superconductors, such as the magnets in MRI scanners.
  • Helium atoms can act very much like their own quantum particles.

Holmium (Ho)

  • Lasers made with holmium are used to treat glaucoma and reduce abnormal eye pressure.
  • In the presence of a magnetic field, it will react more than any other element.
  • Holmium oxide is used to color glass and cubic zirconia yellow or red.
  • Some magnets are made with holmium.
  • Solid-state laser use it for medical procedures, like treating some cancers and kidney stones.

Hydrogen (H)

  • It’s the most abundant element in the universe (75% of its mass).
  • About a tenth of our weight is hydrogen!
  • It is highly flammable.
  • Its flame is nearly invisible.
  • The only anti-element to have been produced is antihydrogen at CERN.
  • No neutrons, no problem! Hydrogen is only a proton and electron.

Indium (In)

  • When it is bent, it emits a crackling sound.
  • It is commonly used in electronics as solder.
  • Mirrors can be produced by evaporating it onto glass.
  • Transistors, rectifiers, photoconductors, and thermistors use indium.
  • “Indium” comes from the word “indigo,” because its spectrum contains brilliant indigo lines.
  • When added to gallium nitride in LEDs, the light becomes violet.
  • Indium tin oxide (ITO) is a common transparent conducting oxide (TCO).

Iodine (I)

  • Iodine gas has a pinkish-violet color.
  • As a solid, it has a shiny blue-black color.
  • Our thyroid gland used iodine to produce certain hormones.
  • Brine is a rich source of iodine.
  • Potassium iodide is used in alcohol to clean wounds.
  • It is used in medicine for treating goiter, diabetic ulcers, fibrocystic breast disease, and the prevention of breast cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke, among other things.

Iridium (Ir)

  • Combined with other elements, it will produce compounds that are red, green, and bluish black.
  • The kilogram is defined as the mass of a piece of platinum iridium metal sealed in a jar. The compound does not react with the chemicals in the air, so its mass stays constant.
  • A type of iridium catalyst can capture sunlight and convert it into chemical energy.
  • It is the second densest element with a density of 22.56 g/cm3 (second to osmium, with 22.59 g/cm3). This is based on measurements, however. Using calculations involving the spacing in its crystal structure show it to be even denser than osmium.
  • No metal is as corrosion-resistant as iridium.
  • Electronics are commonly made with iridium.

Iron (Fe)

  • It is the sixth most common element in the universe.
  • It is necessary for oxygen transportation in the human body, as it is present in hemoglobin.
  • Proteins with high amounts of iron are responsible for blood’s red color.
  • On its own, iron is soft.
  • Plants use iron in chlorophyll for photosynthesis.
  • Rust is formed from iron oxides. The reason rust flakes off is because different iron oxides have different atomic spacings. Since they are different, there are stresses which drive them to flake off.

Krypton (Kr)

  • A “neon” light made with krypton will glow smokey white.
  • Krypton fluorine lasers produce pulses that with 500 times the power of the U.S. electrical grid, lasting four billionths of a second.
  • Krypton-83 is used in MRI scanners.
  • Some incandescent bulbs have krypton gas inside of them to prolong the life of the tungsten filament.
  • The meter used to be defined by the wavelength of krypton-86.
  • It only reacts with fluorine.

Lanthanum (La)

  • Hybrid cars use it as a component in their batteries.
  • It’s used in laptop batteries.
  • The film and television industry uses it for studio lighting.
  • Lenses for high quality cameras and telescopes use it.
  • Night vision goggles use lanthanum for its infrared-absorbing glass.
  • Optic fibers can contain lanthanum.

Lawrencium (Lr)

  • It does not occur in nature, but is artificially produced.
  • Its most stable isotope has a half-life of 3.6 hours.

Lead (Pb)

  • One reason why lead can be so toxic is that it will displace calcium atoms in our bones.
  • Lead will substitute itself for calcium ions and stick to the receptors in the brain, blocking incoming signals.
  • Pipes use lead as an internal coating. Is this safe? Yes! Lead itself is highly corrosion-resistant, so coating the pipes will prevent other contaminants from leeching into the water. Unless the water is so contaminated that it can corrode lead, it is safe.
  • Lead used to be added to gasoline to prevent knocking. However, dangers to the environment and employees working with it caused it the be phased out. Rather unfortunately, it took as long as 1996 before it was completely banned in the U.S.
  • The graphite in pencils was called “lead” because in England during the 1500s, large graphite deposits were discovered. The discoverers thought it was lead.
  • Paint used to contain lead to make the colors more vibrant. Due to obvious safety risks, it has long since been banned in the U.S. in consumer paint. Road signs contain lead paint because of its enhanced visibility and lack of contact with people.
  • It is commonly used in solder due to its low melting point; however, it is starting to be phased out. This may pose some problems in electronics.
  • It absorbs sound very well.

Lithium (Li)

  • Lithium carbonate is a bipolar medication used to help severe mood swings.
  • It burns bright red.
  • Lithium ion batteries are some of the most common batteries.
  • It’s the least dense metal.
  • Some soaps contain lithium.
  • If it didn’t explode in water, it would float since it has about half the density of water.

Livermorium (Lv)

  • The most stable isotope has a half-life of 53 milliseconds.
  • It was discovered by bombarding curium atoms with calcium ions.

Lutetium (Lu)

  • The petroleum industry uses it for refining, hydrogenation, and polymerization.
  • Computers use a small amount in certain memory devices.
  • PET scanners use it.

Magnesium (Mg)

  • In small amounts, magnesium is highly flammable. In larger amounts, there’s enough metal to conduct the heat and it isn’t so easily flammable.
  • Magnesium is necessary in human metabolism.
  • It is also necessary for plant photosynthesis.
  • It’s the ninth most abundant element in the universe.
  • Class D fire extinguishers are needed to extinguish magnesium fires, as the carbon dioxide provides fuel for a magnesium fire.
  • 60% of our skeleton is magnesium.
  • About 13% of the Earth’s mass comes from magnesium: more than the mass of Mars!
  • It is promising that in the future, there may be magnesium batteries to replace common lithium ion.

Manganese (Mn)

  • Dry cell batteries use manganese.
  • Manganese oxide is used in glass to make it colorless.
  • It prevents bone loss and is used for helping treat osteoporosis.
  • It is essential in photosynthesis.
  • Manganese is needed for the body to control blood sugar and for thyroid function.
  • Different ions have different colors, including pink, black, purple, and green.
  • Though necessary for our health, too much manganese can lead to various degenerative and intellectual disorders.
  • Soda cans use manganese to stiffen the aluminum, allowing the cans to be thin.

Meitnerium (Mt)

  • It was discovered by bombarding bismuth-209 with iron-58 nuclei.
  • It is radioactive and has uses only in research.

Mendelevium (Md)

  • It was discovered by bombarding einsteinium-53 with helium nuclei (alpha particles).
  • It is produced one atom at a time.

Mercury (Hg)

  • It is also known as quicksilver.
  • It is the only metal that is a liquid at room temperature, and one of two elements that are also liquid at room temperature (bromine).
  • Compact fluorescent light bulbs contain some mercury vapor.
  • Mercury sulfide is known as cinnabar, and it is the main source of mercury.
  • Vermilion pigment is made from mercuric sulfide.
  • The phrase “mad as a hatter” comes from old hat makers. Hats used to be made with mercury, so prolonged exposure to it had some effects on the hatters minds.

Molybdenum (Mo)

  • It is used as a ultra-high-pressure lubricant.
  • Bacteria and plants need molybdenum.
  • It is highly resistant to heat and corrosion.
  • It is used as a catalyst for refining petroleum.
  • It strengthens steel.
  • Molybdenum oxide makes a highly effective hole selective contact.

Moscovium (Mc)

  • Due to its position on the periodic table, it is expected to act like bismuth.
  • Calcium and americium were smashed together to form moscovium.
  • Its most stable isotope has a half-life of about a fifth of a second (0.22 seconds).

Neodymium (Nd)

  • It’s used in welders hoods and glass blowers goggles.
  • Magnets made with neodymium are very highly magnetic and are resistant to demagnetizing.
  • If placed close enough together, two neodymium magnets can collide hard enough to shatter.
  • They can stay magnetic at high temperatures, even higher than 200°C (about 400°F).
  • A neodymium magnet is the reason for your phone’s ability to vibrate.
  • Neodymium-iron-boron are the strongest magnets in existence.
  • Though notorious for its magnetic abilities, it also colors glass shades of violet, red, and gray.

Neon (Ne)

  • Neon glows orange-red when a current passes through it.
  • As a liquid, it has 40 times the refrigerating capacity as liquid helium and is much cheaper.
  • It is the fourth most abundant element in the universe.
  • 0.0018% of the Earth’s atmosphere is made of neon.
  • Neon does not form compounds with other elements, although there are some gas phase ions.

Neptunium (Np)

  • Various oxides produce different colors, including violet, green, yellow, and pinkish-red.
  • Though it’s mostly produced synthetically, there have been very small amounts found in the Earth’s crust.
  • Alloyed, it can be used as a superconductor.

Nickel (Ni)

  • Plated over iron, it prevents rusting.
  • Most nickel compounds are either green or blue.
  • Some plants use it as a nutrient.
  • Nickel is used in rechargeable batteries and magnets.
  • It is one of four elements which are magnetic at room temperature (other than iron, cobalt, and gadolinium).
  • It’s most commonly used for alloying steels for corrosion and heat resistant purposes.
  • Nitinol, an alloy of half-nickel and half-titanium, “remembers” its shape. When heated, it can be bent into any shape. When heated and bent again, at a lower temperature this time, it will form itself back into the original shape.
  • It’s the fifth most common element on Earth.

Nihonium (Nh)

  • It took 7 years after it was first discovered to verify its existence.
  • Its most stable isotope has a half-life of about 20 seconds.

Niobium (Nb)

  • Niobium titanium superconducting wire is used in MRIs to generate the magnetic fields.
  • It is highly resistant to corrosion and heat.
  • Alloys with niobium are very strong at high temperatures. This makes them useful for rocketry and jet engines.
  • It’s used in arc welding rods.

Nitrogen (N)

  • Nitrogen in ammonia (NH3) is a vital fertilizer – it’s used to feed one third of the world!
  • It’s required to build amino acids.
  • It’s a main component in TNT (trinitrotoluene).
  • Liquid nitrogen boils at -195.8°C (-320°F).
  • All proteins and all living systems contain nitrogen.
  • It’s the seventh most abundant element in the universe.
  • Air is 78.1% nitrogen.
  • The aurora gets its orange, red, violet, blue, and green colors from nitrogen.

Nobelium (No)

  • Only small amounts of it have been produced.
  • It was produced by bombarding curium with carbon.

Oganesson (Og)

  • It is a noble gas.
  • It was made by bombarding californium with calcium.
  • It has been suggested that oganesson electrons are distributed evenly instead of being confined to distinct orbitals.

Osmium (Os)

  • Combined with iridium, it’s used to make fountain pen tips.
  • It is the densest element by direct measurement. Using lattice calculations, iridium is the densest.
  • Osmium tetroxide can be used to detect fingerprints.
  • Alloying it with other metals makes them highly resistant to corrosion and heat.

Oxygen (O)

  • Air is 21% oxygen.
  • It gives the aurora green and red colors.
  • Solid oxygen is brittle.
  • It is the third most abundant element in the universe.
  • Oxygen itself doesn’t burn, but it fuels the oxidation process for burning (otherwise we all would’ve been cooked millennia ago!).
  • Liquid oxygen is pale blue.
  • Ois present in our atmosphere only because of the living creatures on it.
  • It is slightly attracted to magnets, but cannot be magnetized.
  • Almost half of the weight of the Earth’s crust is oxygen.

Palladium (Pd)

  • It is used in catalytic converters to convert the harmful chemicals in exhaust into harmless ones. It does this by combusti the leftover fuel from the exhaust (but without a flame).
  • It can recycled from catalytic converters.
  • It can absorb up to 900 times its own volume in hydrogen.
  • Alloying it with gold gives white gold.

Phosphorus (P)

  • Three allotropes are violet, black, and scarlet.
  • It’s important in living things; it’s present in ATP, RNA, DNA, and cell membranes.
  • White phosphorus gives off a slight glow in air.
  • It’s commonly used in fireworks and weapons.
  • It is pyrophoric, i.e., spontaneously combustible in air.
  • Matches are made with red phosphorus.
  • Phosphorus compounds are common in fertilizers.
  • It is a common electron donor (dopant).

Platinum (Pt)

  • Catalytic converters contain platinum.
  • Spark plugs use platinum.
  • The oil industry uses it as a refiner.
  • It’s categorized as a noble metal because, like the noble gases, it is highly unreactive.
  • Of all the metals, it’s the least reactive.
  • Turbine engines use it partly for its corrosion resistance at high temperatures.
  • Dental devices use it.
  • A piece of platinum-iridium alloy is used to standardize the kilogram.
  • It can be drawn into a wire more easily than any metal known.

Plutonium (Pu)

  • It has been a life-giving element as it once powered pacemakers.
  • Much energy is extracted using plutonium in nuclear power plants.
  • Just one kilogram (about 2.24 pounds) can either explode with the power of 20,000 tons of TNT, or produce about 22 million kilowatt hours of energy.
  • Despite being a metal, it is a poor conductor of heat and electricity.
  • Space probes will use it as reserve power when they get too far from the Sun.

Polonium (Po)

  • It is so radioactive that a lethal dose is a piece as large as a one hundred millionth of a grain of sand.
  • It is used in nuclear weapons.
  • It has been used on brushes to remove dust on photographic film.
  • Polonium is a carcinogen present in cigarette smoke.
  • Since it is energy compact, it is used for thermoelectric power satellites.
  • An isotope of polonium emits a blue glow.

Potassium (K)

  • This metal is so soft that it can be cut with a butter knife.
  • It is violently reactive with water.
  • When it burns, it produces a purple flame.
  • It’s an electrolyte.
  • Potassium is a nutrient needed for all living cells.
  • Fertilizers use potassium, since plants deplete it rapidly from the soil.
  • If the air is humid enough, it’ll react with the water and ignite.
  • It’s important in maintaining blood pressure.
  • They are essential for the brain to send electrical signals to the body.
  • Potassium hydroxide (KOH) is used to clean silicon wafers. It also serves to texture the silicon in solar cells (they etch pyramids in (111) planes).

Praseodymium (Pr)

  • It reacts with oxygen to form a green coating.
  • Yellow cubic zirconia (fake peridot) derives its color from it.
  • Combined with neodymium, it makes the lenses for glass maker’s goggles to filter out yellow light.
  • It is used in welder’s goggles, hybrid car batteries, and iPods.
  • It strengthens magnesium for aircraft engines.

Promethium (Pm)

  • Some isotopes generate x-rays through beta decay.
  • Promethium salts glow green or blue depending on the decay it undergoes.
  • The earliest pacemakers used it for power.
  • It’s used in spacecraft power sources.
  • It’s the only radioactive rare earth metal.
  • Promethium-147 emits gamma rays via radiation.

Protactinium (Pa)

  • It is used mainly for research, but an isotope of protactinium combined with one of thorium has been used for marine sediment dating.
  • Uranium and plutonium decays into it.

Radium (Ra)

  • Though radioactive, it has quite a stable isotope. Radium-226 has a half-life of 1600 years.
  • It was thought to have healing properties and used to be used in toothpaste, jewelry, and many other everyday items.
  • It reacts with the nitrogen in the air to form a black coating.
  • It is the heaviest alkaline earth metal.

Radon (Rn)

  • Radon gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer in North America.
  • It is the heaviest gas known.
  • This gas glows in the dark due to its radioactivity.

Rhenium (Rh)

  • It has the third highest melting point of all the elements (below carbon and tungsten).
  • It is highly corrosion resistant.
  • Mirrors use it as a coating and are seen in searchlights for this reason.
  • Catalytic converters contain rhenium.
  • Besides silver, it is the best reflector.
  • It is the fourth most dense element (below iridium, osmium, and platinum).
  • With platinum, it is used in producing unleaded gasoline.
  • Due to its high heat and corrosion resistance, it is used in jet engines.

Roentgenium (Rg)

  • It is formed by bombarding nickel-64 with bismuth-209.
  • It is highly radioactive.

Rubidium (Rb)

  • It’s used to remove trace gases in vacuum tube production.
  • Atomic clocks will use it as a cheaper alternative to cesium.
  • It explodes in water and spontaneously ignites in air (pyrophoric).
  • Fireworks use it to produce purple colors.
  • The first Bose-Einstein condensate, the fifth state of matter, was formed using rubidium.

Ruthenium (Ru)

  • It is highly effective in hardening platinum and palladium.
  • Ruthenium alloys with platinum and palladium to form corrosion-resistant conductors.
  • Concentrated acids do not affect it.

Rutherfordium (Rf)

  • It is predicted to behave like hafnium.
  • It is used for research.

Samarium (Sm)

  • Samarium cobalt forms a magnet with the highest resistance to demagnetization of any known material.
  • Samarium cobalt magnets are used in guitar pickups and headphones.
  • It is a dopant in crystals used for lasers.
  • Samarium chloride, if given the correct dose, will bind with alcohol and prevent someone from getting intoxicated.

Scandium (Sc)

  • It makes some of the strongest aluminum alloys known.
  • Scandium oxide is used for stadium and film lighting.
  • The aerospace industry uses it for its light weight and high melting point.
  • It tarnishes in air to a light yellow or pink color.

Seaborgium (Sg)

  • It is used for research.
  • It was produced by bombarding californium-249 with oxygen ions.

Selenium (Se)

  • The photophone, a device which transmitted speech patterns on a beam of light, was produced using selenium.
  • Selenium salts help control dandruff.
  • Humans need it to produce enzymes.
  • It colors glass red, but it can also decolorize it.
  • Liquid selenium has very high surface tension.
  • Since it is responsive to light, it is used in laser printers and photocopiers.
  • It’s most stable isotope has a half-life of one quintillion years (i.e, 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 years).
  • It aids in protection against mercury poisoning.

Silicon (Si)

  • Sand is the most common source of silicon on Earth in the form of silica, or silicon dioxide.
  • Silicon is not silicone. Silicone is a mix of silicon, carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen.
  • Silicon has the same crystal structure as diamond.
  • It is the most significant and commonly used semiconductor in the world.
  • Ultra pure silicon is used for electronics. It must be at least 99.9999999% pure silicon.
  • Silicon is the backbone to the solar panel industry.
  • Opal’s iridescence is caused by silicon.
  • Since it is highly resistant to heat, it is used in ceramics.
  • Like water, it’s denser in liquid form than as a solid.

Silver (Ag)

  • It is the best reflector of all elements. Nearly all light is reflected by silver.
  • Its high reflectivity makes it useful in telescopes, microscopes, and solar cells.
  • It is the best electrical conductor. Copper is most often used because it is much cheaper.
  • Silver is commonly used in solar cells as the front contact material.
  • Long-lasting batteries are made with it.
  • It used to be used in dental fillings.
  • Silver iodide is used to cause clouds to produce rain, i.e., cloud seeding.
  • Sterling silver is 92.5% silver by weight.
  • Gold is the only metal that is more ductile than silver.
  • It kills bacteria by breaking down cell membranes.

Sodium (Na)

  • Of all the alkali metals, sodium is the most reactive.
  • It gives off a yellowish-orange tint when a current passes through it.
  • Since it’s the most efficient light source, it is used in road lighting.
  • If all of the sodium chloride in the oceans were extracted, it would cover all the land of the Earth with a depth of about 500 feet (150 meters).
  • It is so soft, it can be cut with a butter knife.
  • It’s the sixth most abundant element on Earth.
  • Sodium ions are vital for nerve function.
  • If it didn’t explode on contact with water, it would float on it.
  • It helps maintain fluid balance in the cells of living organisms.
  • Fireworks use it to produce a yellow color.

Strontium (Sr)

  • The bright red color in fireworks comes from strontium.
  • Its flame is bright red.
  • Some ceramic magnets include strontium.
  • An isotope of strontium is used for cardiac imaging.

Sulfur (S)

  • Hydrogen sulfide is the chemical that gives eggs their iconic smell.
  • It is bright yellow.
  • Another name for sulfur is “brimstone.”
  • It can both oxidize and reduce.
  • Wine contains some sulfur as a preservative.
  • Sulfur is used for building amino acids to form proteins and enzymes.
  • Sulfuric acid is used in batteries, oil refineries, and fertilizers.

Tantalum (Ta)

  • It is corrosion resistant and highly conductive. This makes it useful for electronics.
  • One of its most common uses is in capacitors in electronics.
  • Aircraft industries use it.
  • It has the third highest melting point (below tungsten and rhenium).
  • Surgical instruments use tantalum.
  • Artificial joints use it because it does not react with bodily fluids.

Technetium (Tc)

  • Powdered technetium will ignite.
  • All isotopes are radioactive.
  • It is artificially produced.
  • Adding it to steel highly enhances its corrosion resistance. Since it is radioactive, this is only useful for steel in certain applications.
  • There has never been any technetium found naturally on Earth, however it has been shown to be produced in stars.
  • The gamma rays produced from technetium-99m (“m” for metastable) are used for medical diagnostic tools.
  • It’s a powerful superconductor.

Tellurium (Te)

  • It is a semiconductor that responds to sunlight.
  • It is primarily used for manufacturing films in solar cells.
  • Even a tiny amount in air will cause one’s breath to smell like garlic.
  • Fungi use it to create amino acids.
  • Tellurium is highly toxic.
  • It burns bluish-green.
  • When copper and stainless steel is alloyed with it, they become more easily workable.
  • Sulfuric acid becomes less corrosive when it contains tellurium.
  • CDs and DVDs with tellurium enable them to be rewritten.
  • Cadmium telluride is a common thin film solar energy material.

Tennessine (Ts)

  • It is a halogen.
  • Tennessine was produced by bombarding berkelium with calcium ions.

Terbium (Tb)

  • Terbium oxide looks like chocolate powder.
  • It’s soft enough to be cut with a knife.
  • Terbium cations are used to detect microbes.
  • Alloyed with iron, it can provide metallic films for recording data.
  • Terbium alloyed with neodymium and dysprosium produces magnets built for high temperatures.

Thallium (Tl)

  • Thallium iodide and thallium bromide are used in infrared detection devices.
  • Its oxide produces glass that melts at low temperatures (about 150°C; compare to 1400-1600°C for most glass).
  • Thallium sulfate was used as a rat poison and insecticide until it was discontinued for its toxicity to humans.

Thorium (Th)

  • It is used for nuclear energy due to the decay of its isotopes. It eventually decays into an isotope of uranium that is used as nuclear fuel.
  • Thorium oxide is used in camera lenses, high temperature crucibles, and cracking of petroleum products.
  • Its most stable isotope has a half-life of 14 billion years.
  • It alloys magnesium to increase its strength in high temperatures.

Thulium (Tm)

  • It is used in laser for surgical applications.
  • Thulium cations emit a strong blue luminescence under ultraviolet light. Because of this, it is used in euro banknotes to protect against counterfeiting.
  • It is a dopant in yttrium aluminum garnets (YAG) for lasers.

Tin (Sn)

  • Bronze is made when tin is alloyed with copper.
  • Tin salts provide conductive coatings on glass.
  • It does not corrode in water.
  • When bent, the deformation of its crystalline structure emits a creaking sound.
  • Below 13.2°C (56°F), tin turns into its powdery alpha allotrope.
  • Alpha tin is a semiconductor.
  • It has a low melting point of 232°C (450°F).
  • Tin can be used as cladding to prevent metals from corroding.
  • Superconductive magnets can be made with a tin-niobium alloy.
  • Indium tin oxide (ITO) is a common transparent conducting oxide (TCO).

Titanium (Ti)

  • It is stronger than most common steel alloys while being much lighter than steel.
  • Implants are made with titanium because of its corrosion resistance.
  • Titanium osseointegrates. This means that implants (in this case, usually dental) will fuse with the bones to which it is attached.
  • Aircraft use it for its light weight and high strength-to-weight ratio.
  • Wheelchairs use titanium for its light weight.
  • Titanium oxide is used in sunscreen to prevent ultraviolet light from reaching the skin.
  • Titanium oxide is also used as electron selective contacts in solar cells.

Tungsten (W)

  • Tungsten carbide is used mostly in mining, construction, and machining parts.
  • It does not oxidize in air.
  • Of all metals, it has the highest melting point of 3410°C (6170°F).
  • The most familiar use of it is in incandescent bulb filaments.
  • It is the hardest pure metal.
  • It has the highest tensile strength of all the metals (400 GPa, or 58 Mpsi). Also, its tensile strength at temperatures above (1650°C, or 3000°F) is higher than the rest of the metals.
  • Tungsten yarn is used to reinforce composites.
  • Tungsten oxide can be used as a hole selective contact in solar cells.

Uranium (U)

  • Glass can be colored green with uranium. It glows under black light, but not because of its radioactivity.
  • One ton of uranium can produce as much energy as 16,000 tons of coal or 80,000 barrels of oil.
  • Over 20% of the energy in the US is produced by nuclear power plants.

Vanadium (V)

  • Vanadium oxide is used to fix dyes to fabrics, as a catalyst, and for the manufacturing of ceramics.
  • It is corrosion resistant.
  • Steel alloyed with vanadium is tough, shock resistant, and vibration resistant.
  • It is used in making superconductive magnets.
  • Alloys including vanadium are used for jet engines.
  • Emeralds are green because they contain vanadium.
  • Vanadium oxide can be used as a hole selective contact in solar cells.

Xenon (Xe)

  • NASA’s xenon ion drive engine propels spacecraft on deep space mission by ejecting xenon ions at over 88,000 miles per hour (146,000 kilometers per hour).
  • It is typically inert, but both of its oxides are highly explosive.
  • Camera flash is produced by electricity being passed through xenon.
  • Medical imaging and anesthetics use it.
  • Ultra-bright car headlights use xenon.

Ytterbium (Yb)

  • Some steels contain ytterbium to improve some mechanical properties.
  • It is a safer and cleaner industrial catalyst.
  • It is a dopant in fiber optic cables and lasers.
  • Ytterbium-160 is used in portable x-ray machines which don’t need electricity.

Yttrium (Y)

  • Yttrium iron garnets are used in microwave filters. They are also highly efficient in transmitting and transducing acoustic energy.
  • Its oxide, along with yttrium vanadate and europium, are used to make red phosphors in television tubes.
  • It reduces the grain size of chromium, molybdenum, zirconium, and titanium to increase their strength.

Zinc (Zn)

  • It galvanizes other metals to prevent oxidation.
  • An oxide film forms on it which protects it from corrosion.
  • Zinc sulfide is used in fluorescent lights and x-ray screens.
  • Toothpastes and mouthwashes contain zinc.
  • Combined with copper, it forms brass.
  • It is the fourth most widely used metal.
  • Paints, cosmetics, and inks use it.
  • All living things need it.

Zirconium (Zr)

  • It is highly corrosion resistant.
  • Nuclear power plants use it.
  • Zirconium-niobium alloys are used to make superconductor magnets.
  • Lotions for treating poison ivy use zirconium.
  • Its oxide is used for producing strong ceramics.
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