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Atomic symbol Os
Atomic number 76
Classification Transition Metals
Atomic mass 190.2 amu
Other Information
Date of discovery 1803
Name of discoverer Smithson Tennant and William Hyde Wollaston
Name origin From the Greek osmê, meaning odour, due to its pungent smell.
Uses Used to tip gold pen points and instrument pivots (such as compass needles and clock bearings). Also used to make electric light filaments and for high temperature alloys and pressure bearings.
Obtained from Produced as a by-product of nickel refining.

Osmium is a chemical element that is one of the platinum metals. It is the densest of all the natural elements. Because pure osmium oxidizes to the extremely toxic osmium tetroxide, osmium is rarely used in its pure form. Osmium also has a very unique ability; it can apparently undergo osmosis. The unique electron structure of the Osmium3+ ion allows it to be pulled through a thin membrane to the other side, on the surface apparently similar to water undergoing osmosis. This ability to penetrate easily into the furthest reaches of the human body is what allows it to be so toxic to humans.[1]

See also


  1. Advanced Chemistry 'Chemical Storylines', Salters-Nuffield, 2001