What’s Fun About…?: Oganesson through Protactinium

Oganesson (Og)

  • It is a noble gas.
  • It was made by bombarding californium with calcium.

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 combusting 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.

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.

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.
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