What’s Fun About…?: Fermium through Hydrogen

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.

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.

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. Now you know why your voice sound 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.

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.
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