Click on each element to see some fun facts about it

                       
All Alkali Metals Alkaline Earth Metals Transition Metals Post-Transition Metals Metalloids Non-Metals Halogens Noble Gases Lanthanides Actinides Unknown
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H

Hydrogen

Fun Fact: Despite all the nuclear fusion that has occurred in stars since the big bang, hydrogen is still by far the most abundant element in the universe, and makes up four-fifths of all ordinary matter. For a while it was touted as the fuel of the future, but it remains difficult to produce, transport and store. At extreme temperatures and pressures, like those at the core of a gas-giant planet, hydrogen can become metallic.

PhaseGas
CategoryAlkali Metal
Atomic Weight1.00794(7)
 In Your Element: First there was hydrogen
X
He

Helium

Fun Fact: It is not the lightest of all elements, but it is the smallest: it has a stronger electrostatic charge in its nucleus than hydrogen does, and thus it keeps its electrons in a tighter orbit. Helium has numerous applications but its global supply is in critical shortage.

PhaseGas
CategoryNoble Gases
Atomic Weight4.002602(2)
 In Your Element: Cool as helium
X
Li

Lithium

Fun Fact: One of only three elements to be created in the big bang, though in much smaller amounts than hydrogen or helium. It has no known role in normal physiology, but as a drug it has long been appreciated as a mood stabilizer. Dilithium, or Li2, is a gas; unfortunately there is no such thing as a dilithium crystal.

PhaseSolid
CategoryAlkali Metals
Atomic Weight6.941(2)
 In Your Element: Is lithium the new gold?
X
Be

Beryllium

Fun Fact: This element is the first one that requires more neutrons than protons in its nucleus in order to be stable, and thus it created a bottleneck in the formation of new elements after the big bang. It gives emeralds their green or red hues and aquamarine its light blue. Its resistance to extreme cold temperature makes it ideal for space telescope mirrors, including those of the James Webb Space Telescope.

PhaseSolid
CategoryAlkaline Earth Metals
Atomic Weight9.012182(3)
 In Your Element: A brighter beryllium
X
B

Boron

Fun Fact: This element is fairly rare and has no known role in biology. Mixed in with glass, it reduces thermal expansion and thus it makes for oven-proof pots and pans.

PhaseSolid
CategoryMetalloids
Atomic Weight10.811(7)
 In Your Element: Bonding with boron
X
C

Carbon

Fun Fact: By some estimates, more than 80 percent of known molecules are carbon based, or “organic” (which does not necessarily imply biological origin). Carbon is so omnipresent in molecular structures that chemists do not even bother to label it.

PhaseSolid
CategoryNon-Metals
Atomic Weight12.0107(8)
 In Your Element: The four worlds of carbon
X
N

Nitrogen

Fun Fact: In its molecular form, N2, it is extremely tough to break up, which makes it essentially inert—a good thing given that N2 makes up nearly 80 percent of the atmosphere. Nitrogen-based compounds are one of the main pollutants in artificial fertilizer runoff.

PhaseGas
CategoryNon-Metals
Atomic Weight14.0067(2)
 In Your Element: Life and death with nitrogen
X
O

Oxygen

Fun Fact: The element that gave oxidation its name is not required in it; anything that steals electrons away performs oxidation. Oxygen is the third most abundant element in the universe and may be the most abundant in the composition of Earth—though iron is often estimated to beat it.

PhaseGas
CategoryNon-Metals
Atomic Weight15.9994(3)
 In Your Element: Oxygen origins
X
F

Fluorine

Fun Fact: The “tiger of chemistry” is the most reactive of all elements; it even reacts which some of the heavier noble gases. Chemists spent a century trying to isolate it, and several died in the attempt. Fluorine also forms some of the most tenacious molecular bonds, making fluorine-based pollutants such as the non-stick coating Teflon especially hard to dispose.

PhaseGas
CategoryHalogens
Atomic Weight18.9984032(5)
 In Your Element: A flourish of fluorine
X
Ne

Neon

Fun Fact: Like helium, it is a true noble gas—it is chemically inert as an isolated atom and does not form chemical bonds. It is “mined” from the atmosphere, and its fluorescence makes it ideal for lamps.

PhaseGas
CategoryNoble Gases
Atomic Weight20.1797(6)
 In Your Element: Neon behind the signs
X
Na

Sodium

Fun Fact: Like all elements in its column, called the alkalis, it is only stable if it has donated one of its outer electrons. On the opposite side of the periodic table, the halogens, such as chlorine, need to capture one electron for stability. That complementarity makes for an ideal marriage, and one common result is a salt—such as sodium chloride, shown here.

PhaseSolid
CategoryAlkali Metals
Atomic Weight22.98976928(2)
 In Your Element: A pinch of sodium
X
Mg

Magnesium

Fun Fact: Another top-10 element in the Earth’s crust, it also has hundreds of roles in living cells, including human cells. In plants, every chlorophyll molecule has a magnesium ion at its heart.

PhaseSolid
CategoryAlkaline Earth Metals
Atomic Weight24.3050(6)
 In Your Element: A flash of magnesium
X
Al

Aluminium

Fun Fact: It is the most abundant metal in Earth’s crust but it is rare in its pure form. Until the 1800s, when the technology was developed to separate it from rock, it was more expensive than gold; Napoleon III allegedly hosted a banquet in which the guests of honor ate on aluminum plates.

PhaseSolid
CategoryPost-Transition Metals
Atomic Weight26.9815386(13)
 In Your Element: The allure of aluminium
X
Si

Silicon

Fun Fact: Most of the Earth’s rock and mantle is made of silicate rock: Earth is classified as a silicate planet. Although it is chemically similar to carbon, which is the basis of biological chemistry, chemists doubt that silicon-based life could exist.

PhaseSolid
CategoryMetalloids
Atomic Weight28.0855(3)
 In Your Element: Silicon beyond the valley
X
P

Phosphorus

Fun Fact: One of the crucial building blocks of DNA as well as of ATP, the living cell’s main form of energy currency. Together with nitrogen compounds, phosphates are a major pollutant in the runoff from fertilizers, causing “dead zones” in seas and lakes.

PhaseSolid
CategoryNon-Metals
Atomic Weight30.973762(2)
 In Your Element: The two faces of phosphorus
X
S

Sulfur

Fun Fact: Before photosynthesis appeared, hydrogen sulfite (H2S) may have been life’s first source of energy. Sulfur is one of the most important elements in the living cell, appearing in two types of amino acids and in countless other compounds.

PhaseSolid
CategoryNon-Metals
Atomic Weight32.065(5)
 In Your Element: Under sulfur's spell
X
Cl

Chlorine

Fun Fact: It was the first chemical weapon to find use in World War I, but it has also long been one of humanity’s best friends, beginning with the treatment of cholera-infested water wells in London in the mid-1800s. Chlorofluorocarbons were banned in 1996 after being linked to damage of the ozone layer.

PhaseGas
CategoryHalogens
Atomic Weight35.453(2)
 In Your Element: Chlorine chronicles
X
Ar

Argon

Fun Fact: The third of noble gases, it was considered completely inert until in 2000 when Finnish chemists showed that it does form compounds with hydrogen fluoride—though only at -265 degrees Celsius.

PhaseGas
CategoryNoble Gases
Atomic Weight39.948(1)
 In Your Element: Argon out of thin air
X
K

Potassium

Fun Fact: Together with nitrogen and phosphorus it is one of the three crucial elements in artificial fertilizers, which often go by the name of N-P-K. It is part of the alkali column, whose name comes from qali, the Arabic word for the salt-loving plant saltwort.

PhaseSolid
CategoryAlkali Metals
Atomic Weight39.0983(1)
 In Your Element: Potent potassium
X
Ca

Calcium

Fun Fact: Like phosphorus, it is an ingredient of hydroxylapatite, the mineral that makes up 50 percent of bone mass as well as dental enamel. It locks up Earth’s largest carbon reservoir of biological origin in the form of calcium carbonate, aka chalk (the stuff that makes the White Cliffs of Dover white).

PhaseSolid
CategoryAlkaline Earth Metal
Atomic Weight40.078(4)
 In Your Element: Meteoric calcium
X
Sc

Scandium

Fun Fact: Its existence was predicted by Mendeleyev before its discovery, based on the structure of the periodic table. It is one of only two elements—the other being Yttrium—to be classified as rare earths that lie outside of the lanthanoid group. It was allegedly used for the noses of Soviet submarine-carried ICBMs, enabling them to ram through sea ice.

PhaseSolid
CategoryTransition Metals
Atomic Weight44.955912(6)
 In Your Element: Unsporting scandium
X
Ti

Titanium

Fun Fact: As titanium dioxide, it is the main ingredient of white paint as well as sunblock. Titanium’s light weight, strength and resistance to corrosion also make it a favorite material for the structural elements of aircraft.

PhaseSolid
CategoryTransition Metals
Atomic Weight47.867(1)
 In Your Element: Titanium tales
X
V

Vanadium

Fun Fact: An important ingredient in the fluid that stores energy in flow batteries, a technology that might some day store vast amounts of energy from solar panels and wind farms for later use.

PhaseSolid
CategoryTransition Metals
Atomic Weight50.9415(1)
X
Cr

Chromium

Fun Fact: This famously colorless metal is, ironically, named after the Greek word for color. Indeed, its compounds include numerous pigments, including the traditional “chrome yellow” of U.S. school buses.

PhaseSolid
CategoryTransition Metals
Atomic Weight51.9961(6)
 In Your Element: The colours of chromium
X
Mn

Manganese

Fun Fact: It plays a crucial but poorly understood role in photosynthesis—specifically, in the molecular complexes that split water molecules using solar energy.

PhaseSolid
CategoryTransition Metals
Atomic Weight54.938045(5)
 In Your Element: Manganese the protector
X
Fe

Iron

Fun Fact: In stars, nuclear fusion releases energy by producing heavier and heavier elements, until it stops at iron: other processes are required to synthesize the higher elements. Rusting iron is the single largest sink of the oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere.

PhaseSolid
CategoryTransition Metals
Atomic Weight55.845(2)
 In Your Element: A new iron age
X
Co

Cobalt

Fun Fact: Its name may originate from the German word for “goblin.” It is one of the rarest transition metals, and an essential ingredient of vitamin B12.

PhaseSolid
CategoryTransition Metals
Atomic Weight58.933195(5)
 In Your Element: Cobalt close-up
X
Ni

Nickel

Fun Fact: Bacteria that have carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide or methane as their source of energy all use nickel-based enzymes in their metabolism.

PhaseSolid
CategoryTransition Metals
Atomic Weight58.6934(4)(2)
 In Your Element: In the nickel of time
X
Cu

Copper

Fun Fact: Many invertebrates—including octopi and horseshoe crabs—are literally blue-blooded. They transport oxygen in their blood using a bluish, copper-based molecule called hemocyanin rather than the iron-based hemoglobin. Hemocyanin is more efficient than hemoglobin at storing oxygen in deep, cold waters.

PhaseSolid
CategoryTransition Metals
Atomic Weight63.546(3)
 In Your Element: Counting on copper
X
Zn

Zinc

Fun Fact: This element might have been refined in India as early as the 12th century. It is used in galvanization, a form of rust proofing.

PhaseSolid
CategoryTransition Metals
Atomic Weight65.38(2)(4)
 In Your Element: Zinc of unsuspected worth
X
Ga

Gallium

Fun Fact: It is solid at room temperature but has a melting point of just 29 degrees Celsius, which gave inspiration for the title of a recent book on the periodic table, The Disappearing Spoon. In 1997, masked thieves broke into a physics lab in Russia and attempted to siphon off 60 tons of highly purified liquid gallium from a neutrino detector—a booty that would have been worth $30 million.

PhaseSolid
CategoryPost-Transition Metals
Atomic Weight69.723(1)
 In Your Element: Gregarious gallium
X
Ge

Germanium

Fun Fact: Its existence was predicted by Mendeleyev before its discovery, based on the structure of the periodic table. It is a semiconductor, used primarily in diodes.

PhaseSolid
CategoryMetalloids
Atomic Weight72.63(1)
X
As

Arsenic

Fun Fact: One of the most popular poisons throughout the ages, so much so that it was often called “inheritance powder”; one of its inadvertently deadly uses—as a coloring for wallpaper—may have resulted in the death of Napoleon. A recent, controversial study suggested that some bacteria may use arsenic in place of phosphorus.

PhaseSolid
CategoryMetalloids
Atomic Weight74.92160(2)
 In Your Element: All about arsenic
X
Se

Selenium

Fun Fact: The most stable form of this element is a semiconductor used in photovoltaic cells because it conducts electricity better in the light than in the dark.

PhaseSolid
CategoryNon-Metals
Atomic Weight78.96
 In Your Element: Selenium stories
X
Br

Bromine

Fun Fact: This element is a favorite of hot-tubbers because it has sanitizing properties similar to those of chlorine but it is not as smelly.

PhaseLiquid
CategoryHalogens
Atomic Weight79.904(1)
 In Your Element: Ambiguous bromine
X
Kr

Krypton

Fun Fact: Even though it is a noble gas, it does form compounds—though not the oxide that would qualify to be called kryptonite, the fictional material that Superman loves to hate.

PhaseGas
CategoryNoble-Gases
Atomic Weight83.798
 In Your Element: The world of krypton revisited
X
Rb

Rubidium

Fun Fact: Atoms of the rubidium-87 isotope naturally repel each other. This property made physicists pick them for the first demonstration of the ultra-cold state of matter known as a Bose-Einstein condensate, which is at its lowest possible energy state and consequently displays quantum effects such as wavelike behavior.

PhaseSolid
CategoryAlkali Metals
Atomic Weight85.4678(3)
 In Your Element: Rubidium round-the-clock
X
Sr

Strontium

Fun Fact: It gives stadium flares their brilliant red hues. Its radioactive isotope Sr-90 is notorious for accumulating in the bones, owing to strontium’s chemical similarities with calcium.

PhaseSolid
CategoryAlkaline Earth Metals
Atomic Weight87.62
 In Your Element: Strontium's scarlet sparkles
X
Y

Yttrium

Fun Fact: This is one of four elements named after the small Swedish town of Ytterby (the others are ytterbium, erbium and terbium). Yttrium barium copper oxide was the first material found to be a superconductor at high enough temperatures to be kept in liquid nitrogen instead of the more cumbersome liquid helium.

PhaseSolid
CategoryTransition Metals
Atomic Weight88.90585
 In Your Element: Yttrium from Ytterby
X
Zr

Zirconium

Fun Fact: Most of its use goes into nuclear reactors, because of its resistance to radiation and corrosion at high temperatures.

PhaseSolid
CategoryTransition Metals
Atomic Weight91.224
 In Your Element: The A–Z of zirconium
X
Nb

Niobium

Fun Fact: Named after the Greek goddess Niobe, daughter of Tantalus; the element tantalum is located directly below it. One of the elemental superconductors, it is used in the radio-frequency cavities of some of the most advanced liquid-helium–cooled particle accelerators.

PhaseSolid
CategoryTransition Metals
Atomic Weight92.90638
 In Your Element: Subtle niobium
X
Mo

Molybdenum

Fun Fact: This element is found in dozens of important enzymes in the human body. Since World War I it has been used as a steel hardener.

PhaseSolid
CategoryTransition Metals
Atomic Weight95.94(1)
 In Your Element: Made by molybdenum
X
Tc

Technetium

Fun Fact: None of this element’s isotopes are stable. It was first discovered by creating it in the laboratory, although later it was found to occur naturally in trace amounts, as a decay product of the spontaneous fission of uranium.

PhaseSolid
CategoryTransition Metals
Atomic Weight98(0)
 In Your Element: Tales of technetium
X
Ru

Ruthenium

Fun Fact: The element was named after Russia (its Latin name is Ruthenia) because it was first discovered in Siberian platinum. In 1944 it was included in the ballpoints of Parker pens for its strength and durability.

PhaseSolid
CategoryTransition Metals
Atomic Weight101.07
 In Your Element: Regarding ruthenium
X
Rh

Rhodium

Fun Fact: This element is one of the rarest precious metals, and the most precious, typically 60 percent more costly than platinum. Small amounts are used in catalytic converters.

PhaseSolid
CategoryTransition Metals
Atomic Weight102.90550
 In Your Element: Rhodium roles
X
Pd

Palladium

Fun Fact: Chemists have used palladium’s wonders as a catalyst to synthesize organic molecules that until recently only living cells could produce. This work earned Richard F. Heck, Ei-ichi Negishi and Akira Suzuki the 2010 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

PhaseSolid
CategoryTransition Metals
Atomic Weight106.42
 In Your Element: Reactions coupled to palladium
X
Ag

Silver

Fun Fact: In 2000, Stan Jones, a Montana libertarian politician who was running for the U.S. Senate, intentionally ingested silver as an antibiotic, which turned his skin permanently blue. Silver is also an excellent catalyst, which accounts for more use of silver than jewelry.

PhaseSolid
CategoryTransition Metals
Atomic Weight107.8682
 In Your Element: Give silver a shine
X
Cd

Cadmium

Fun Fact: Mostly known for its use in blue pigments, it is one of the toxic “heavy metals.” In summer 2010 McDonald’s recalled more than 12 million Shrek 3 glasses due to cadmium contamination.

PhaseSolid
CategoryTransition Metals
Atomic Weight112.411
 In Your Element: A portrait of cadmium
X
In

Indium

Fun Fact: Bulk indium can trap an electron inside it as if it were orbiting an artificial atom. Physicists use the effect in the creation of “quantum dots,” one of the main approaches to building quantum computers.

PhaseSolid
CategoryPost-Transition Metal
Atomic Weight114.818
 In Your Element: A touch of indium
X
Sn

Tin

Fun Fact: Most ancient civilizations learned to smelter alloys of tin and copper before they did iron, giving the Bronze Age its name. As lead is phased out due to its toxicity, tin is replacing it in applications such as solder.

PhaseSolid
CategoryPost-Transition Metals
Atomic Weight118.710
 In Your Element: Tin can
X
Sb

Antimony

Fun Fact: A compound of antimony and fluoride is one of the most acidic known, with a pH of -31. In alchemy it was seen as a feminine element; its symbol later became the symbol for “female” (a cross with a circle on top).

PhaseSolid
CategoryMetalloids
Atomic Weight121.760(1)
 In Your Element: All manner of antimony
X
Te

Tellurium

Fun Fact: It is the only element that easily forms minerals with gold; most gold ore comes in the form of gold telluride. The radioactive isotope tellurium-128 has the longest known half-life of any known unstable isotope, at 2.2 septillion years, or 2.2X10^24 years. A small amount of tellurium, if spilled on the skin, makes you smell of garlic for weeks.

PhaseSolid
CategoryMetalloids
Atomic Weight127.60
 In Your Element: Tellurium in a twist
X
I

Iodine

Fun Fact: It is responsible for the characteristic smell of seaweeds. It is an essential micronutrient, most of it used in the thyroid for the production of hormones.

PhaseSolid
CategoryHalogens
Atomic Weight126.90447
 In Your Element: Tracing iodine
X
Xe

Xenon

Fun Fact: This element is Oliver Sacks’ favorite because it was the first noble gas to be shown to form chemical bonds, reminding the author of how he overcame his solitary nature.

PhaseGas
CategoryNoble Gases
Atomic Weight131.293(6)
 In Your Element: Xenon out of its shell
X
Cs

Caesium

Fun Fact: The “other golden metal”: it is one of only three metals—the others being gold and copper—to have a color other than gray or shiny silver. It is used in the most precise atomic clocks, which lose or gain less than a second every 138 million years.

PhaseSolid
CategoryAlkali Metals
Atomic Weight132.9054519(2)
 In Your Element: Quantum caesium
X
Ba

Barium

Fun Fact: In the middle ages pebbles found near Bologna, Italy, were highly coveted by witches and alchemists alike because after being exposed to light can they glow in the dark for years. The stones turn out to be made of barite, or barium sulfite. Traces of barite in marine sediments give an indication of the ocean’s productivity throughout the ages.

PhaseSolid
CategoryAlkaline Earth Metals
Atomic Weight137.33
 In Your Element: Barium bright and heavy
X
La

Lanthanum

Fun Fact: The family of lanthanide elements in the periodic table gets its name from it. Lanthanum is used for the anodes of nickel-metal hydride batteries: a Toyota Prius may contain more than 30 pounds of it.

PhaseSolid
CategoryLanthanides
Atomic Weight138.90547
X
Ce

Cerium

Fun Fact: The most abundant of the lanthanides, it is as common in Earth’s crust as copper. It is used in high-intensity lamps of film projectors.

PhaseSolid
CategoryLanthanides
Atomic Weight140.116
 In Your Element: Cerium under the lens
X
Pr

Praseodymium

Fun Fact: Crystals of silicate “doped” with praseodymium have been used to slow light to just a few hundred meters per second. It also finds applications in goggles for welders.

PhaseSolid
CategoryLanthanides
Atomic Weight140.90765
X
Nd

Neodymium

Fun Fact: One of the rare-earth metals whose use in high-tech applications has been booming in recent years. Neodymium magnets are the strongest permanent magnets known and they are used in microphones, loudspeakers, headphones and computer hard disks. A Toyota Prius contains more than two pounds of it.

PhaseSolid
CategoryLanthanides
Atomic Weight144.242
 In Your Element: The neodymium neologism
X
Pm

Promethium

Fun Fact: Together with technetium, it is the only relatively light element in the table that has no stable isotopes. Like astatine, it occurs in the Earth’s crust only as a fleeting product of the decay of other elements; scientists have estimated that less than 600 grams of it exist on the entire planet at any given time.

PhaseSolid
CategoryLanthanides
Atomic Weight[145]
X
Sm

Samarium

Fun Fact: Its isotope samarium-148 is radioactive with a half-life of seven quadrillion years—20 million times as long as the age of the universe. Samarium-147, with a half-life of “just” 106 billion years, is used in the samarium-neodymium dating of rocks and meteorites.

PhaseSolid
CategoryLanthanides
Atomic Weight150.36
 In Your Element: Salute to samarium
X
Eu

Europium

Fun Fact: Euro banknotes are rumored to contain europium (fittingly!) as an anti-counterfeit measure, because of the element’s fluorescent signature--although analyzing the notes’ chemistry would be illegal.

PhaseSolid
CategoryLanthanides
Atomic Weight151.964
 In Your Element: Europium in the limelight
X
Gd

Gadolinium

Fun Fact: This rare-earth element is magnetic at room temperature but holding it in your hand warms it enough for it to lose its magnetism.

PhaseSolid
CategoryLanthanides
Atomic Weight157.25
 In Your Element: Magically magnetic gadolinium
X
Tb

Terbium

Fun Fact:

PhaseSolid
CategoryLanthanides
Atomic Weight158.92535
X
Dy

Dysprosium

Fun Fact: Its name originates from the Greek “hard to get”: in 1866 it took French chemist Paul Émile Lecoq de Boisbaudran more than 30 attempts to isolate it form other rare earths. It is used in the fabrication of certain lasers and computer hard disks.

PhaseSolid
CategoryLanthanides
Atomic Weight162.500
 In Your Element: Anisotropic dysprosium
X
Ho

Holmium

Fun Fact: It can acquire the strongest magnetization of any element, but it does not stay permanently magnetized. It is used as a dopant of crystals in high-performance lasers.

PhaseSolid
CategoryLanthanides
Atomic Weight164.93032
 In Your Element: Homely holmium
X
Er

Erbium

Fun Fact: One of four elements named after Ytterby, Sweden, where they were discovered (the other three being ytterbium, yttrium and terbium). Erbium has fluorescent bands in the infrared spectrum, right where optical fibers are most efficient—making erbium lasers a cornerstone of the Internet infrastructure.

PhaseGas
CategoryLanthanides
Atomic Weight167.259
 In Your Element: Extricating erbium
X
Tm

Thulium

Fun Fact: The radioactive isotope thulium-170, produced by bombarding naturally-occurring thulium-169 with neutrons, is used in portable x-ray machines. It is one of the few truly rare elements among the rare earths.

PhaseSolid
CategoryLanthanides
Atomic Weight168.93421
X
Yb

Ytterbium

Fun Fact: It is more common in the Earth’s crust than tin, bromine, uranium or arsenic. But like other rare-earth elements, it has little tendency to accumulate in ore deposits, which makes its mining tricky expensive. Like erbium, it is used in infrared lasers for fiber-optic networks.

PhaseSolid
CategoryLanthanides
Atomic Weight173.054(5)
 In Your Element: Iterations of ytterbium
X
Lu

Lutetium

Fun Fact: This element is the last, and rarest, of the rare-earth elements—although it is still more abundant than gold. In September 2010, China, which has a near-monopoly of the production of rare earths, caused widespread alarm when it announced a possibly illegal export ban.

PhaseSolid
CategoryLanthanides
Atomic Weight174.9668(4)
X
Hf

Hafnium

Fun Fact: Its existence and chemical properties were predicted by Mendeleyev before its discovery, based on the structure of the periodic table. Hafnium oxide is a high-performance electrical insulator, which, starting in 2007, has enabled engineers to pack more transistors into computer chips.

PhaseSolid
CategoryTransition Metals
Atomic Weight178.49
X
Ta

Tantalum

Fun Fact: It is an excellent conductor of both heat and electricity, and its use contributed to making cell phones smaller and lighter. It is also chemically inert, which makes it ideal for implants such as pacemakers.

PhaseSolid
CategoryTransition Metals
Atomic Weight180.94788
 In Your Element: Tantalizing tantalum
X
W

Tungsten

Fun Fact: This element has the highest melting point of all elements, at 6,170 degrees Fahrenheit (3,410 degrees Celsius) and is the heaviest element to be used by living organisms. It is one of the few elements that commonly go under two names, the other one being wolfram—hence the W symbol.

PhaseSolid
CategoryTransition Metals
Atomic Weight183.84
 In Your Element: W for tungsten and wolfram
X
Re

Rhenium

Fun Fact: It is one of the rarest elements in the Earth’s crust, and was the last naturally occurring stable element to be discovered (in 1925). It has the highest boiling point of any element, at 5,596 degrees Celsius. Its main use is in special alloys for jet engines.

PhaseSolid
CategoryTransition Metals
Atomic Weight186.207
 In Your Element: Recognizing rhenium
X
Os

Osmium

Fun Fact: It is the densest of the elements—more than 22 times denser than water—and it is the least abundant stable element in the Earth’s crust. (Radioactive elements such as astatine, promethium and technetium are even less abundant.) The stylus in early phonographs was made of osmium.

PhaseSolid
CategoryTransition Metals
Atomic Weight190.23
 In Your Element: Osmium weighs in
X
Ir

Iridium

Fun Fact: It is rare in Earth’s crust but not in asteroids. Thus when, in 1980, a team led by physics Nobel Prize winner Luis Alvarez discovered a thin geological layer of iridium lying at the boundary between sediments from the Cretaceous and the Tertiary eras worldwide, the researchers formulated the impact hypothesis for the extinction of dinosaurs.

PhaseSolid
CategoryTransition Metals
Atomic Weight192.217
 In Your Element: Iridium’s impact
X
Pt

Platinum

Fun Fact: This element is one of chemists’ favorite catalysts. In catalytic converters, platinum breaks down hydrocarbon residues in exhaust fumes into carbon dioxide and water vapor.

PhaseSolid
CategoryTransition Metals
Atomic Weight195.084
 In Your Element: Behind platinum's sparkle
X
Au

Gold

Fun Fact: It is one of the most inert metals when in bulk. But gold nanoparticles have surprising catalytic powers. They also assume different colors depending on their size: gold nanoparticles are responsible for the reds of stained glasses.

PhaseSolid
CategoryTransition Metals
Atomic Weight196.966569(4)
 In Your Element: A golden future
X
Hg

Mercury

Fun Fact: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently proposed regulations on smokestack emissions of this metal, which can cause neurological disorders. Lewis and Clark took mercury laxative pills on their expedition, which later helped archeologists identify traces of their camping sites.

PhaseLiquid
CategoryTransition Metals
Atomic Weight200.59(2)
 In Your Element: Mesmerized by mercury
X
Tl

Thallium

Fun Fact: It is regarded as the most toxic of all the elements—although radioactive elements such as polonium or plutonium are lethal at lower doses. In 1972 President Nixon issued an executive order that outlawed thallium’s use as a poison. It still finds numerous applications in electronics, however, for example in infrared detectors.

PhaseSolid
CategoryPost-Transition Metals
Atomic Weight204.3833
 In Your Element: Toxic thallium
X
Pb

Lead

Fun Fact: Already in the mid-1800s, Emily Dickinson waxed poetic about the paralysis that can result from ingesting even tiny amounts of lead. Some historians have even blamed its use for the decline of the Roman Empire. This heavy metal however can also be good for you: it is one of the most commonly used materials for radiation shielding.

PhaseSolid
CategoryPost-Transition Metals
Atomic Weight207.2
 In Your Element: Lead between the lines
X
Bi

Bismuth

Fun Fact: Combined with selenium, it has replaced lead in plumbing brasses since the 1990s to meet lead-free environmental standards.

PhaseSolid
CategoryPost-Transition Metals
Atomic Weight208.98040(1)
 In Your Element: Green bismuth
X
Po

Polonium

Fun Fact: As is the case for radium, it was discovered by Pierre and Marie Curie. But it is even more intensely radioactive than radium; it was used to murder a Russian dissident in 2006. Polonium is present in tobacco leaves and easily inhaled as a component of cigarette smoke, probably causing at least some smoke-related lung cancers.

PhaseSolid
CategoryMetalloids
Atomic Weight(209)
 In Your Element: Poisonous polonium
X
At

Astatine

Fun Fact: Because of its short half-life, it is considered to be the rarest of all elements, even rarer than promethium: the entire planet is estimated to hold just one ounce of astatine at any given time.

PhaseSolid
CategoryHalogens
Atomic Weight(210)
 In Your Element: Enigmatic astatine
X
Rn

Radon

Fun Fact: A product of the decay chain of the uranium and thorium that are naturally present in the Earth’s crust, this radioactive noble gas seeps through the soil and tends to accumulate in poorly ventilated basements. It is considered to be the second most frequent cause of lung cancer.

PhaseGas
CategoryNoble Gases
Atomic Weight(222)
 In Your Element: Recalling radon's recognition
X
Fr

Francium

Fun Fact: Its half-life is even shorter than that of astatine (the rarest element in nature), but it is not quite as rare because more of it is continuously produced by radioactive decay.

PhaseSolids
CategoryAlkali Metals
Atomic Weight(223)
 In Your Element: Finding francium
X
Ra

Radium

Fun Fact: After Pierre and Marie Curie discovered it in 1898, radium was embraced enthusiastically by inventors for its wondrous properties, such as the fact that it glows in the dark. But starting in the 1920s people began to use it more cautiously after young female workers who had painted luminous watch dials began to die from the element’s radiation.

PhaseSolid
CategoryAlkaline Earth Metals
Atomic Weight(226)
X
Ac

Actinium

Fun Fact: It is found in pitchblende, the same type of rock from which radium and polonium—the elements discovered by Pierre and Marie Curie—were first extracted. It gives its name to the actinides, the elements with atomic numbers between 89 and 103.

PhaseSolid
CategoryActinides
Atomic Weight(227)
 In Your Element: Active actinium
X
Th

Thorium

Fun Fact: Some see this radioactive, relatively common element as a promising substitute for uranium in a new generation of nuclear reactors. Its abundance, especially in Earth’s core, is difficult to estimate precisely, and leads to uncertainties about the rate at which the planet has cooled since its formation.

PhaseSolid
CategoryActinides
Atomic Weight232.0381
 In Your Element: Thorium lends a fiery hand
X
Pa

Protactinium

Fun Fact: Even though it is located after thorium on the periodic table, protactinium has a lower atomic weight because its most prevalent isotopes have fewer neutrons in their nuclei—one of only four such cases in the periodic table. Its existence was predicted by Mendeleyev before its discovery, based on the structure of the periodic table.

PhaseSolid
CategoryActinides
Atomic Weight231.03588
 In Your Element: Peculiar protactinium
X
U

Uranium

Fun Fact: Since the Manhattan Project, uranium has had sinister associations, and like all radioactive elements it is of course a health hazard. But for a while after radioactivity was discovered, some regarded it as beneficial. In the early 20th century, spas in the U.S. and Europe added uranium to their swimming pools, and people took it as a dietary supplement in “radioactive water.”

PhaseSolid
CategoryActinides
Atomic Weight238.02891(3)
 In Your Element: The riches of uranium
X
Np

Neptunium

Fun Fact: Its position between uranium and plutonium is not coincidental (it reflects the sequence of the corresponding planets). It was the first actinide to be synthesized, in 1940.

PhaseSolid
CategoryActinides
Atomic Weight(237)
 In Your Element: Neglected neptunium
X
Pu

Plutonium

Fun Fact: It was long classified as an artificial element, until in 1972 when physicists discovered that some two billion years ago uranium deposits in Gabon must have undergone a sustained chain reaction, similar to what happens in a nuclear power station. Among the traces of that reaction the researchers found some plutonium.

PhaseSolid
CategoryActinides
Atomic Weight(244)
 In Your Element: Plutonium's new horizons
X
Am

Americium

Fun Fact: This element was first produced (together with curium) in 1944 by Glenn T. Seaborg’s team using a 1.5-meter cyclotron at the University of California, Berkeley, Radiation Laboratory. Because the research was part of the Manhattan Project that created the atomic bomb, the discovery was not announced until after the World War II. Americium is used in smoke detectors.

PhaseSolid
CategoryActinides
Atomic Weight(243)
 In Your Element: The unveiled states of americium
X
Cm

Curium

Fun Fact: Curium was discovered together with americium. These two elements and the others with atomic numbers between 95 and 100 are produced by the decay by-products of nuclear explosions, such as heavy isotopes of uranium and plutonium. During the Cold War these elements could be detected in the atmosphere following nuclear tests. The heat released by curium has been used to produce power on board deep-space probes.

PhaseSolid
CategoryActinides
Atomic Weight(247)
 In Your Element: Curious curium
X
Bk

Berkelium

Fun Fact: In 1950 The New Yorker sarcastically remarked that Glenn T. Seaborg’s team had missed a chance to have four elements in a row named “universitium,” “ofium,” “californium” and “berkelium.” The team replied it did not want to risk naming the first two elements universitium and ofium lest the East Coast beat them to naming the next two “newium” and “yorkium.”

PhaseSolid
CategoryActinides
Atomic Weight(247)
X c
Cf

Californium

Fun Fact: This element also was discovered at the Berkeley Radiation Lab, which after World War II had become a research facility of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (the precursor of the Department of Energy). The intense neutron radiation produced by californium is used by oil companies in geophysical exploration, and by nuclear power stations to kick-start nuclear reactions.

PhaseSolid
CategoryActinides
Atomic Weight(251)
 In Your Element: Californium gleaming
X
Es

Einsteinium

Fun Fact: Although he was neither a chemist nor a nuclear physicist, Albert Einstein was the author of a seminal 1905 paper on Brownian motion that helped convince scientists of the existence of atoms and molecules. In the same year Einstein also laid the foundations for quantum theory, which eventually led scientists to explain the structure of the periodic table. Einsteinium was first discovered in materials from the fallout of a thermonuclear bomb.

PhaseSolid
CategoryActinides
Atomic Weight(252)
 In Your Element: Einsteinium declassified
X
Fm

Fermium

Fun Fact: Like einsteinium, fermium was first found in thermonuclear debris, but—unlike the elements that follow it in the periodic table—it can be produced in nuclear reactors as well. It may also be the highest-numbered element to have any practical application: its alpha particle emissions are used in radiotherapy.

PhaseSolid
CategoryActinides
Atomic Weight(257)
X
Md

Mendelevium

Fun Fact: Researchers at the Berkeley Radiation Lab produced just 17 atoms of element 101, so they could detect it only by radioactive decay, instead of via the chemical techniques used for elements up to 100. In a gesture of Cold War détente—this was 1955—the team named it after Dimitry Mendeleyev, the Russian chemist wrote down the first periodic table after noticing patterns in the chemistry of elements when ordered according to atomic weight.

PhaseSolid
CategoryActinides
Atomic Weight(258)
X
No

Nobelium

Fun Fact: Nobelium was named after the Nobel Institute of Physics in Stockholm, Sweden, even though that institute's claim to have synthesized it in 1957 was soon falsified by Berkeley Radiation Lab researchers. The Berkeley team got credited for nobelium's discovery, but in fact, the element had first been produced in 1956 at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (JINR) in Dubna, Russia.

PhaseSolid
CategoryActinides
Atomic Weight[259]
 In Your Element: Nobelium non-believers
X
Lr

Lawrencium

Fun Fact: Some chemists regard lawrencium as the last of the actinides, and thus place it at the bottom right of the two rows of elements that are displayed separately from the others, as here. Others point out that because of chemical properties lawrencium—together with element 71, lutetium—should be placed in the leftmost column of the transition metals, underneath scandium (21) and yttrium (39). It was found in 1961 at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory—the new name for the Berkeley Radiation Lab—and is named after its founder Ernest Lawrence.

PhaseSolid
CategoryActinides
Atomic Weight[262]
 In Your Element: Lawrencium’s place at the table
X
Rf

Rutherfordium

Fun Fact: This element is the first of several for which discovery was claimed by a team at the JINR, in 1964, but priority was contested by researchers at Lawrence Berkeley.

PhaseSolid
CategoryTransition Metals
Atomic Weight[261.11]
 In Your Element: The race for rutherfordium
X
Db

Dubnium

Fun Fact: The Flerov Laboratory of Nuclear Reactions (part of the JINR) in Dubna, Russia, was founded by Georgy Flerov in the late 1950s and is now at the forefront of the creation of new elements. Discovered in the 1960s, element 105 was officially named dubnium in 1996 when the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) settled a bitter, decades-long dispute between teams of scientists at Dubna and at Lawrence Berkeley.

PhaseUnknown
CategoryTransition Metals
Atomic Weight[268]
 In Your Element: Brief encounters with dubnium
X
Sg

Seaborgium

Fun Fact: American chemist Glenn T. Seaborg contributed to the discovery of element 106 as well as of nine other elements—all those numbered 94 to 102. Chemists joked that one could address letters to Seaborg using exclusively chemical symbols: Sg, Bk, Cf, Am—for “Seaborg,” “University of California at Berkeley,” “California,” “America.” The name seaborgium for 106 was initially disputed by scientists who believed no element should be named after a living person.

PhaseSolid
CategoryTransition Metals
Atomic Weight[271]
 In Your Element: Seaborgium’s complex studies
X
Bh

Bohrium

Fun Fact: In 1981 bohrium became the first of six elements discovered by Peter Armbruster and his collaborators at the GSI Helmholtz Institute for Heavy Ion Research, in Darmstadt, Germany.

PhaseSolid
CategoryTransition Metals
Atomic Weight[270]
 In Your Element: Probing bohrium
X
Hs

Hassium

Fun Fact: Researchers in Darmstadt first produced hassium by bombarding lead with iron atoms. Hassium has chemical properties expected of elements in its column—which includes iron—as researchers were able to discern from experiments involving just a handful of atoms.

PhaseSolid
CategoryTransition Metals
Atomic Weight[269]
X
Mt

Meitnerium

Fun Fact: Researchers in Darmstadt named element 109 after Austrian physicist Lise Meitner, who had discovered nuclear fission together with Otto Hahn but—presumably because she was a woman—was not included in Hahn's 1944 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. (When Hitler annexed Austria, Meitner had to flee to Sweden because of her Jewish descent.)

PhaseSolid
CategoryTransition Metals
Atomic Weight[278]
X
Ds

Darmstadtium

Fun Fact: This element is named after the German town of Darmstadt, where researchers at the Institute for Heavy Ion Research first synthesized elements 107 to 112.

PhaseSolid
CategoryTransition Metals
Atomic Weight[281]
X
Rg

Roentgenium

Fun Fact: The team in Darmstadt that first synthesized this element named it after Wilhelm Roentgen, the discoverer of x-rays.

PhaseUnknown
CategoryTransition Metals
Atomic Weight[281]
X
Cn

Copernicium

Fun Fact: The last element to have been discovered at the Institute for Heavy Ion Research, copernicium was also the last one to receive an official name. The IUPAC recognized the naming after astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus as well as copernicium's place in the periodic table in February 2010.

PhaseUnknown
CategoryTransition Metals
Atomic Weight[285]
 In Your Element: Welcome copernicium?
X
Uut

Ununtrium

Fun Fact: A team of researchers from Dubna and Lawrence Berkeley announced in 2004 that they had observed element 113 as a decay product of element 115. Researchers at the RIKEN laboratory in Saitama, Japan, also said they had produced it the same year. Once the IUPAC officially confirms its discovery, it will also give the new element its name.

PhaseUnknown
CategoryUnknown
Atomic Weight[286]
X
Fl

Flerovium

Fun Fact: Some nuclear physicists expect that eventually the chemical properties of new elements will stop mimicking those of elements in the same column of the periodic table, because their electrons will orbit fast enough to show a relativistic effect. Indeed, in 2008 controversial data from the JINR in Dubna, Russia, where 114 was discovered, suggested that its chemistry may be closer to that of a noble gas. The IUPAC officially confirmed the discovery of element 114 in June 2011.

PhaseSolid
CategoryMetal
Atomic Weight[289]
 In Your Element: One flerovium atom at a time
X
Uup

Ununpentium

Fun Fact: In 2004 a team of researchers from Dubna and Berkeley first announced they had produced element 115 in 2003. Once the IUPAC officially confirms its discovery, it will also give the new element an official name.

PhaseUnknown
CategoryUnknown
Atomic Weight[289]
X
Lv

Livermorium

Fun Fact: Element 116 was first seen by researchers in Dubna in 2000. The IUPAC officially confirmed the discovery of 116 (as well as of element 114) in June 2011 and named it on May 30, 2012. The element is named after the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which collaborated on the discovery with the Dubna scientists.

PhaseSolid
CategoryMetal
Atomic Weight[293]
 In Your Element: Uuh? No. It's livermorium!
X
Uus

Ununseptium

Fun Fact: Ununseptium is the temporary name of the most recent element to have been synthesized: Russian physicists in Dubna were able to produce just six atoms of it in 2009 in a collaboration with Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. The two labs, former Cold War rivals, each contributed one of the ingredients to make 117, namely the heavy isotopes calcium 48 and berkelium 249.

PhaseUnknown
CategoryUnknown
Atomic Weight[294]
X
Uuo

Ununoctium

Fun Fact: Lawrence Berkeley Lab had hoped to recapture its primacy in the synthesis of new elements with element 118 and its decay product, 116, but had to retract its claim in 2002 when its own researchers said they had found evidence that Victor Ninov, a member of the team, had fabricated data. In 2006 researchers in Dubna, said they had produced elements 118 and 116—this time for real.

PhaseUnknown
CategoryUnknown
Atomic Weight[294]
X