Skip to main content Skip to Search Box

Definition: osmium from Philip's Encyclopedia

(symbol Os) Bluish-white, metallic element, one of the transition elements. The densest of the elements, it is associated with platinum; the chief source is as a by-product from smelting nickel. Osmium is used in producing hard alloys and to make electrical contacts and pen points. It was discovered in 1804 by English chemist Smithson Tennant (1761-1815) who named it. Properties: at.no. 76; r.a.m. 190.2; r.d. 22.57; m.p. 3,045°C (5,513°F); b.p. 5,027°C (9,081 °F); most common isotope Os192 (41.0%).


Summary Article: osmium from The Columbia Encyclopedia

(ŏz'mēəm), metallic chemical element; symbol Os; at. no. 76; at. wt. 190.23; m.p. 3,045±30 degrees Celsius; b.p. 5,027±100 degrees Celsius; sp. gr. 22.57 at 20 degrees Celsius; valence usually +0 to +8. Osmium is a very hard, brittle, lustrous bluish-white metal with a close-packed hexagonal crystalline structure. It immediately precedes iridium in Group 8 of the periodic table. The measured densities of osmium and iridium indicate that osmium is slightly more dense than iridium, and osmium is generally credited as the heaviest element. Osmium does not oxidize readily in air except when heated or in powdered form; it then forms the unpleasant smelling, highly toxic tetroxide, OsO4. The tetroxide is used in microscopy as a stain, in fingerprint detection, and as a catalyst. Osmium is not affected by common acids but is oxidized to the tetroxide by hot nitric acid, hot sulfuric acid, or aqua regia. Osmium reacts with fluorine or chlorine gas at high temperatures to give the tetrafluoride or tetrachloride. In addition to the valences noted above, osmium assumes other valences between 0 and +8 in various compounds. Osmium is found in platinum ores and in the mineral osmiridium. It is recovered commercially as a byproduct of the refining of nickel ores mined near Sudbury, Ont., Canada. The metal is used largely for the production of hard alloys for use in fountain pen points, phonograph needles, and instrument bearings. Osmium was discovered by Smithson Tennant in 1804 in a residue left after dissolving crude platinum in aqua regia.

The Columbia Encyclopedia, © Columbia University Press 2017

Related Credo Articles

Full text Article osmium (Os)
The Encyclopedia of Ecology and Environmental Management, Blackwell Science

A rare metallic element ( atomic number = 76; relative atomic mass = 190.2; melting point = 3045°C; boiling point = 5027°C),...

Full text Article osmium (Os)
The Macmillan Encyclopedia

An extremely hard bluish-silver metal of the platinum group. It is one of the densest elements known (relative density 22.6). Its major use...

Full text Article iridium
The Columbia Encyclopedia

(ĭrĭd'ēəm), metallic chemical element; symbol Ir; at. no. 77; at. wt. 192.217; m.p. about 2,410 degrees Celsius; b.p. about 4,130 degrees Celsius; sp

See more from Credo