Last updated

Osmium,  76Os
Osmium crystals.jpg
Pronunciation /ˈɒzmiəm/ (OZ-mee-əm)
Appearancesilvery, blue cast
Standard atomic weight Ar, std(Os)190.23(3) [1]
Osmium in the periodic table
Hydrogen Helium
Lithium Beryllium Boron Carbon Nitrogen Oxygen Fluorine Neon
Sodium Magnesium Aluminium Silicon Phosphorus Sulfur Chlorine Argon
Potassium Calcium Scandium Titanium Vanadium Chromium Manganese Iron Cobalt Nickel Copper Zinc Gallium Germanium Arsenic Selenium Bromine Krypton
Rubidium Strontium Yttrium Zirconium Niobium Molybdenum Technetium Ruthenium Rhodium Palladium Silver Cadmium Indium Tin Antimony Tellurium Iodine Xenon
Caesium Barium Lanthanum Cerium Praseodymium Neodymium Promethium Samarium Europium Gadolinium Terbium Dysprosium Holmium Erbium Thulium Ytterbium Lutetium Hafnium Tantalum Tungsten Rhenium Osmium Iridium Platinum Gold Mercury (element) Thallium Lead Bismuth Polonium Astatine Radon
Francium Radium Actinium Thorium Protactinium Uranium Neptunium Plutonium Americium Curium Berkelium Californium Einsteinium Fermium Mendelevium Nobelium Lawrencium Rutherfordium Dubnium Seaborgium Bohrium Hassium Meitnerium Darmstadtium Roentgenium Copernicium Nihonium Flerovium Moscovium Livermorium Tennessine Oganesson


Atomic number (Z)76
Group group 8
Period period 6
Block d-block
Element category   Transition metal
Electron configuration [ Xe ] 4f14 5d6 6s2
Electrons per shell
2, 8, 18, 32, 14, 2
Physical properties
Phase at  STP solid
Melting point 3306  K (3033 °C,5491 °F)
Boiling point 5285 K(5012 °C,9054 °F)
Density (near r.t.)22.59 g/cm3
when liquid (at m.p.)20 g/cm3
Heat of fusion 31  kJ/mol
Heat of vaporization 378 kJ/mol
Molar heat capacity 24.7 J/(mol·K)
Vapor pressure
P (Pa)1101001 k10 k100 k
at T (K)316034233751414846385256
Atomic properties
Oxidation states −4, −2, −1, 0, +1, +2, +3, +4, +5, +6, +7, +8 (a mildly acidic oxide)
Electronegativity Pauling scale: 2.2
Ionization energies
  • 1st: 840 kJ/mol
  • 2nd: 1600 kJ/mol
Atomic radius empirical:135  pm
Covalent radius 144±4 pm
Color lines in a spectral range Osmium spectrum visible.png
Color lines in a spectral range
Spectral lines of osmium
Other properties
Natural occurrence primordial
Crystal structure hexagonal close-packed (hcp)
Hexagonal close packed.svg
Speed of sound thin rod4940 m/s(at 20 °C)
Thermal expansion 5.1 µm/(m·K)(at 25 °C)
Thermal conductivity 87.6 W/(m·K)
Electrical resistivity 81.2 nΩ·m(at 0 °C)
Magnetic ordering paramagnetic [2]
Magnetic susceptibility 11·10−6 cm3/mol [2]
Shear modulus 222 GPa
Bulk modulus 462 GPa
Poisson ratio 0.25
Mohs hardness 7.0
Vickers hardness 300 MPa
Brinell hardness 293 MPa
CAS Number 7440-04-2
Discovery and first isolation Smithson Tennant (1803)
Main isotopes of osmium
Iso­tope Abun­dance Half-life (t1/2) Decay mode Pro­duct
184Os0.02% stable
185Os syn 93.6 d ε 185Re
186Os1.59%2.0×1015 yα 182W
191Ossyn15.4 d β 191Ir
193Ossyn30.11 dβ 193Ir
194Ossyn6 yβ 194Ir
| references

Osmium (from Greek ὀσμή osme, "smell") is a chemical element with the symbol Os and atomic number 76. It is a hard, brittle, bluish-white transition metal in the platinum group that is found as a trace element in alloys, mostly in platinum ores. Osmium is the densest naturally occurring element, with an experimentally measured (using x-ray crystallography) density of 22.59 g/cm3. Manufacturers use its alloys with platinum, iridium, and other platinum-group metals to make fountain pen nib tipping, electrical contacts, and in other applications that require extreme durability and hardness. [3] The element's abundance in the Earth's crust is among the rarest. [4] [5]

Ancient Greek Version of the Greek language used from roughly the 9th century BCE to the 6th century CE

The ancient Greek language includes the forms of Greek used in Ancient Greece and the ancient world from around the 9th century BCE to the 6th century CE. It is often roughly divided into the Archaic period, Classical period, and Hellenistic period. It is antedated in the second millennium BCE by Mycenaean Greek and succeeded by Medieval Greek.

Chemical element a species of atoms having the same number of protons in the atomic nucleus

A chemical element is a species of atom having the same number of protons in their atomic nuclei. For example, the atomic number of oxygen is 8, so the element oxygen consists of all atoms which have 8 protons.

Symbol (chemistry) an arbitrary or conventional sign used in chemical science to represent a chemical element

In chemistry, a symbol is an abbreviation for a chemical element. Symbols for chemical elements normally consist of one or two letters from the Latin alphabet and are written with the first letter capitalised.



Physical properties

Osmium, remelted pellet Osmium 1-crop.jpg
Osmium, remelted pellet

Osmium has a blue-gray tint and is the densest stable element; it is approximately twice as dense as lead [3] and slightly denser than iridium. [6] Calculations of density from the X-ray diffraction data may produce the most reliable data for these elements, giving a value of 22.587±0.009  g/cm3 for osmium, slightly denser than the 22.562±0.009 g/cm3 of iridium; both metals are nearly 23 times as dense as water. [7]

Lead Chemical element with atomic number 82

Lead is a chemical element with the symbol Pb and atomic number 82. It is a heavy metal that is denser than most common materials. Lead is soft and malleable, and also has a relatively low melting point. When freshly cut, lead is silvery with a hint of blue; it tarnishes to a dull gray color when exposed to air. Lead has the highest atomic number of any stable element and three of its isotopes are endpoints of major nuclear decay chains of heavier elements.

Iridium Chemical element with atomic number 77

Iridium is a chemical element with the symbol Ir and atomic number 77. A very hard, brittle, silvery-white transition metal of the platinum group, iridium is the second-densest metal with a density of 22.56 g/cm3 as defined by experimental X-ray crystallography. At room temperature and standard atmospheric pressure, iridium has a calculated density 0.04 g/cm3 higher than osmium measured the same way. It is the most corrosion-resistant metal, even at temperatures as high as 2000 °C. Although only certain molten salts and halogens are corrosive to solid iridium, finely divided iridium dust is much more reactive and can be flammable.

Gram per cubic centimetre unit of density

Gram per cubic centimetre is a unit of density in the CGS system, commonly used in chemistry, defined as mass in grams divided by volume in cubic centimetres. The official SI symbols are g/cm3, g·cm−3, or g cm−3. It is equivalent to the units gram per millilitre (g/mL) and kilogram per litre (kg/L). The density of water is about 1 g/cm3, since the gram was originally defined as the mass of one cubic centimetre of water at its maximum density at 4 °C.

Osmium is a hard but brittle metal that remains lustrous even at high temperatures. It has a very low compressibility. Correspondingly, its bulk modulus is extremely high, reported between 395 and 462  GPa , which rivals that of diamond (443 GPa). The hardness of osmium is moderately high at 4 GPa. [8] [9] [10] Because of its hardness, brittleness, low vapor pressure (the lowest of the platinum-group metals), and very high melting point (the fourth highest of all elements, after only carbon, tungsten, and rhenium), solid osmium is difficult to machine, form, or work.

Metal element, compound, or alloy that is a good conductor of both electricity and heat

A metal is a material that, when freshly prepared, polished, or fractured, shows a lustrous appearance, and conducts electricity and heat relatively well. Metals are typically malleable or ductile. A metal may be a chemical element such as iron; an alloy such as stainless steel; or a molecular compound such as polymeric sulfur nitride.

Compressibility measure of the relative volume change of a fluid or solid as a response to a pressure change

In thermodynamics and fluid mechanics, compressibility is a measure of the relative volume change of a fluid or solid as a response to a pressure change. In its simple form, the compressibility may be expressed as

Bulk modulus measure of how incompressible / resistant to compressibility a substance is

The bulk modulus of a substance is a measure of how resistant to compression that substance is. It is defined as the ratio of the infinitesimal pressure increase to the resulting relative decrease of the volume. Other moduli describe the material's response (strain) to other kinds of stress: the shear modulus describes the response to shear, and Young's modulus describes the response to linear stress. For a fluid, only the bulk modulus is meaningful. For a complex anisotropic solid such as wood or paper, these three moduli do not contain enough information to describe its behaviour, and one must use the full generalized Hooke's law.

Chemical properties

Oxidation states of osmium
0 Os
+4 OsO
, OsCl
+6 OsF
+8 OsO
, Os(NCH3)

Osmium forms compounds with oxidation states ranging from −2 to +8. The most common oxidation states are +2, +3, +4, and +8. The +8 oxidation state is notable for being the highest attained by any chemical element aside from iridium's +9 [11] and is encountered only in xenon, [12] [13] ruthenium, [14] hassium, [15] and iridium.[ dead link ] [16] The oxidation states −1 and −2 represented by the two reactive compounds Na
and Na
are used in the synthesis of osmium cluster compounds. [17] [18]

The oxidation state, sometimes referred to as oxidation number, describes the degree of oxidation of an atom in a chemical compound. Conceptually, the oxidation state, which may be positive, negative or zero, is the hypothetical charge that an atom would have if all bonds to atoms of different elements were 100% ionic, with no covalent component. This is never exactly true for real bonds.

Xenon Chemical element with atomic number 54

Xenon is a chemical element with the symbol Xe and atomic number 54. It is a colorless, dense, odorless noble gas found in Earth's atmosphere in trace amounts. Although generally unreactive, xenon can undergo a few chemical reactions such as the formation of xenon hexafluoroplatinate, the first noble gas compound to be synthesized.

Ruthenium Chemical element with atomic number 44

Ruthenium is a chemical element with the symbol Ru and atomic number 44. It is a rare transition metal belonging to the platinum group of the periodic table. Like the other metals of the platinum group, ruthenium is inert to most other chemicals. Russian-born scientist of Baltic-German ancestry Karl Ernst Claus discovered the element in 1844 at Kazan State University and named it after the Latin name of his homeland, Ruthenia. Ruthenium is usually found as a minor component of platinum ores; the annual production has risen from about 19 tonnes in 2009 to some 35.5 tonnes in 2017. Most ruthenium produced is used in wear-resistant electrical contacts and thick-film resistors. A minor application for ruthenium is in platinum alloys and as a chemistry catalyst. A new application of ruthenium is as the capping layer for extreme ultraviolet photomasks. Ruthenium is generally found in ores with the other platinum group metals in the Ural Mountains and in North and South America. Small but commercially important quantities are also found in pentlandite extracted from Sudbury, Ontario and in pyroxenite deposits in South Africa.

The most common compound exhibiting the +8 oxidation state is osmium tetroxide. This toxic compound is formed when powdered osmium is exposed to air. It is a very volatile, water-soluble, pale yellow, crystalline solid with a strong smell. Osmium powder has the characteristic smell of osmium tetroxide. [19] Osmium tetroxide forms red osmates OsO
upon reaction with a base. With ammonia, it forms the nitrido-osmates OsO
. [20] [21] [22] Osmium tetroxide boils at 130 °C and is a powerful oxidizing agent. By contrast, osmium dioxide (OsO2) is black, non-volatile, and much less reactive and toxic.

Osmium tetroxide chemical compound

Osmium tetroxide (also osmium(VIII) oxide) is the chemical compound with the formula OsO4. The compound is noteworthy for its many uses, despite its toxicity and the rarity of osmium. It also has a number of unusual properties, one being that the solid is volatile. The compound is colourless, but most samples appear yellow. This is most likely due to the presence of the impurity OsO2, which is yellow-brown in colour.

Ammonia Chemical compound of nitrogen and hydrogen

Ammonia is a compound of nitrogen and hydrogen with the formula NH3. A stable binary hydride, and the simplest pnictogen hydride, ammonia is a colourless gas with a characteristic pungent smell. It is a common nitrogenous waste, particularly among aquatic organisms, and it contributes significantly to the nutritional needs of terrestrial organisms by serving as a precursor to food and fertilizers. Ammonia, either directly or indirectly, is also a building block for the synthesis of many pharmaceutical products and is used in many commercial cleaning products. It is mainly collected by downward displacement of both air and water. Ammonia is named for the Ammonians, worshipers of the Egyptian god Amun, who used ammonium chloride in their rituals.

Celsius Scale and unit of measurement for temperature

The Celsius scale, also known as the centigrade scale, is a temperature scale used by the International System of Units (SI). As an SI derived unit, it is used worldwide. In the United States, the Bahamas, Belize, the Cayman Islands and Liberia however, Fahrenheit remains the preferred scale for everyday temperature measurement. The degree Celsius can refer to a specific temperature on the Celsius scale or a unit to indicate a difference between two temperatures or an uncertainty. It is named after the Swedish astronomer Anders Celsius (1701–1744), who developed a similar temperature scale. Before being renamed to honor Anders Celsius in 1948, the unit was called centigrade, from the Latin centum, which means 100, and gradus, which means steps.

Only two osmium compounds have major applications: osmium tetroxide for staining tissue in electron microscopy and for the oxidation of alkenes in organic synthesis, and the non-volatile osmates for organic oxidation reactions. [23]

Staining Technique used to enhance contrast of specimens observed under a microscope

Staining is a technique used to enhance contrast in samples, generally at the microscopic level. Stains and dyes are frequently used in histology and in the medical fields of histopathology, hematology, and cytopathology that focus on the study and diagnoses disease at a microscopic level. Stains may be used to define biological tissues, cell populations (classifying different blood cells, or organelles within individual cells.

Organic synthesis is a special branch of chemical synthesis and is concerned with the intentional construction of organic compounds. Organic molecules are often more complex than inorganic compounds, and their synthesis has developed into one of the most important branches of organic chemistry. There are several main areas of research within the general area of organic synthesis: total synthesis, semisynthesis, and methodology.

Sharpless asymmetric dihydroxylation is the chemical reaction of an alkene with osmium tetroxide in the presence of a chiral quinine ligand to form a vicinal diol. The reaction has been applied to alkenes of virtually every substitution, often high enantioselectivities are realized. Asymmetric dihydroxylation reactions are also highly site selective, providing products derived from reaction of the most electron-rich double bond in the substrate.

Osmium pentafluoride (OsF5) is known, but osmium trifluoride (OsF3) has not yet been synthesized. The lower oxidation states are stabilized by the larger halogens, so that the trichloride, tribromide, triiodide, and even diiodide are known. The oxidation state +1 is known only for osmium iodide (OsI), whereas several carbonyl complexes of osmium, such as triosmium dodecacarbonyl (Os
), represent oxidation state 0. [20] [21] [24] [25]

In general, the lower oxidation states of osmium are stabilized by ligands that are good σ-donors (such as amines) and π-acceptors (heterocycles containing nitrogen). The higher oxidation states are stabilized by strong σ- and π-donors, such as O2−
and N3−
. [26]

Despite its broad range of compounds in numerous oxidation states, osmium in bulk form at ordinary temperatures and pressures resists attack by all acids, including aqua regia, but is attacked by fused alkalis. [27]


Osmium has seven naturally occurring isotopes, six of which are stable: 184
, 187
, 188
, 189
, 190
, and (most abundant) 192
. 186
undergoes alpha decay with such a long half-life (2.0±1.1)×1015 years, approximately 140000 times the age of the universe, that for practical purposes it can be considered stable. Alpha decay is predicted for all seven naturally occurring isotopes, but it has been observed only for 186
, presumably due to very long half-lives. It is predicted that 184
and 192
can undergo double beta decay but this radioactivity has not been observed yet. [28]

is the descendant of 187
(half-life 4.56×1010 years) and is used extensively in dating terrestrial as well as meteoric rocks (see rhenium-osmium dating). It has also been used to measure the intensity of continental weathering over geologic time and to fix minimum ages for stabilization of the mantle roots of continental cratons. This decay is a reason why rhenium-rich minerals are abnormally rich in 187
. [29] However, the most notable application of osmium isotopes in geology has been in conjunction with the abundance of iridium, to characterise the layer of shocked quartz along the Cretaceous–Paleogene boundary that marks the extinction of the non-avian dinosaurs 65 million years ago. [30]


Osmium was discovered in 1803 by Smithson Tennant and William Hyde Wollaston in London, England. [31] The discovery of osmium is intertwined with that of platinum and the other metals of the platinum group. Platinum reached Europe as platina ("small silver"), first encountered in the late 17th century in silver mines around the Chocó Department, in Colombia. [32] The discovery that this metal was not an alloy, but a distinct new element, was published in 1748. [33] Chemists who studied platinum dissolved it in aqua regia (a mixture of hydrochloric and nitric acids) to create soluble salts. They always observed a small amount of a dark, insoluble residue. [34] Joseph Louis Proust thought that the residue was graphite. [34] Victor Collet-Descotils, Antoine François, comte de Fourcroy, and Louis Nicolas Vauquelin also observed iridium in the black platinum residue in 1803, but did not obtain enough material for further experiments. [34] Later the two French chemists Antoine-François Fourcroy and Nicolas-Louis Vauquelin identified a metal in a platinum residue they called ‘ptène’. [35]

In 1803, Smithson Tennant analyzed the insoluble residue and concluded that it must contain a new metal. Vauquelin treated the powder alternately with alkali and acids [36] and obtained a volatile new oxide, which he believed was of this new metal—which he named ptene, from the Greek word πτηνος (ptènos) for winged. [37] [38] However, Tennant, who had the advantage of a much larger amount of residue, continued his research and identified two previously undiscovered elements in the black residue, iridium and osmium. [34] [36] He obtained a yellow solution (probably of cis[Os(OH)2O4]2−) by reactions with sodium hydroxide at red heat. After acidification he was able to distill the formed OsO4. [37] He named it osmium after Greek osme meaning "a smell", because of the ashy and smoky smell of the volatile osmium tetroxide. [39] Discovery of the new elements was documented in a letter to the Royal Society on June 21, 1804. [34] [40]

Uranium and osmium were early successful catalysts in the Haber process, the nitrogen fixation reaction of nitrogen and hydrogen to produce ammonia, giving enough yield to make the process economically successful. At the time, a group at BASF led by Carl Bosch bought most of the world's supply of osmium to use as a catalyst. Shortly thereafter, in 1908, cheaper catalysts based on iron and iron oxides were introduced by the same group for the first pilot plants, removing the need for the expensive and rare osmium. [41]

Nowadays osmium is obtained primarily from the processing of platinum and nickel ores. [42]


Native platinum containing traces of the other platinum group metals Platinum nuggets.jpg
Native platinum containing traces of the other platinum group metals

Osmium is one of the even-numbered elements, which puts it in the upper half of elements commonly found in space. It is, however, the least abundant stable element in Earth's crust, with an average mass fraction of 50  parts per trillion in the continental crust. [43]

Osmium is found in nature as an uncombined element or in natural alloys; especially the iridium–osmium alloys, osmiridium (osmium rich), and iridosmium (iridium rich). [36] In nickel and copper deposits, the platinum group metals occur as sulfides (i.e., (Pt,Pd)S)), tellurides (e.g., PtBiTe), antimonides (e.g., PdSb), and arsenides (e.g., PtAs2); in all these compounds platinum is exchanged by a small amount of iridium and osmium. As with all of the platinum group metals, osmium can be found naturally in alloys with nickel or copper. [44]

Within Earth's crust, osmium, like iridium, is found at highest concentrations in three types of geologic structure: igneous deposits (crustal intrusions from below), impact craters, and deposits reworked from one of the former structures. The largest known primary reserves are in the Bushveld Igneous Complex in South Africa, [45] though the large copper–nickel deposits near Norilsk in Russia, and the Sudbury Basin in Canada are also significant sources of osmium. Smaller reserves can be found in the United States. [45] The alluvial deposits used by pre-Columbian people in the Chocó Department, Colombia are still a source for platinum group metals. The second large alluvial deposit was found in the Ural Mountains, Russia, which is still mined. [42] [46]


Osmium crystals, grown by chemical vapor transport. Osmium cluster.jpg
Osmium crystals, grown by chemical vapor transport.

Osmium is obtained commercially as a by-product from nickel and copper mining and processing. During electrorefining of copper and nickel, noble metals such as silver, gold and the platinum group metals, together with non-metallic elements such as selenium and tellurium settle to the bottom of the cell as anode mud, which forms the starting material for their extraction. [47] [48] Separating the metals requires that they first be brought into solution. Several methods can achieve this, depending on the separation process and the composition of the mixture. Two representative methods are fusion with sodium peroxide followed by dissolution in aqua regia, and dissolution in a mixture of chlorine with hydrochloric acid. [45] [49] Osmium, ruthenium, rhodium and iridium can be separated from platinum, gold and base metals by their insolubility in aqua regia, leaving a solid residue. Rhodium can be separated from the residue by treatment with molten sodium bisulfate. The insoluble residue, containing Ru, Os and Ir, is treated with sodium oxide, in which Ir is insoluble, producing water-soluble Ru and Os salts. After oxidation to the volatile oxides, RuO
is separated from OsO
by precipitation of (NH4)3RuCl6 with ammonium chloride.

After it is dissolved, osmium is separated from the other platinum group metals by distillation or extraction with organic solvents of the volatile osmium tetroxide. [50] The first method is similar to the procedure used by Tennant and Wollaston. Both methods are suitable for industrial scale production. In either case, the product is reduced using hydrogen, yielding the metal as a powder or sponge that can be treated using powder metallurgy techniques. [51]

Neither the producers nor the United States Geological Survey published any production amounts for osmium. In 1971, estimations of the United States production of osmium as a byproduct of copper refining was 2000  troy ounces (62 kg). [52] In 2017, the estimated US import of osmium for consumption was 90 kg. [53]


Because of the volatility and extreme toxicity of its oxide, osmium is rarely used in its pure state, but is instead often alloyed with other metals for high-wear applications. Osmium alloys such as osmiridium are very hard and, along with other platinum-group metals, are used in the tips of fountain pens, instrument pivots, and electrical contacts, as they can resist wear from frequent operation. They were also used for the tips of phonograph styli during the late 78 rpm and early "LP" and "45" record era, circa 1945 to 1955. Osmium-alloy tips were significantly more durable than steel and chromium needle points, but wore out far more rapidly than competing, and costlier, sapphire and diamond tips, so they were discontinued. [54]

Osmium tetroxide has been used in fingerprint detection [55] and in staining fatty tissue for optical and electron microscopy. As a strong oxidant, it cross-links lipids mainly by reacting with unsaturated carbon–carbon bonds and thereby both fixes biological membranes in place in tissue samples and simultaneously stains them. Because osmium atoms are extremely electron-dense, osmium staining greatly enhances image contrast in transmission electron microscopy (TEM) studies of biological materials. Those carbon materials otherwise have very weak TEM contrast (see image). [23] Another osmium compound, osmium ferricyanide (OsFeCN), exhibits similar fixing and staining action. [56]

The tetroxide and its derivative potassium osmate are important oxidants in organic synthesis. For the Sharpless asymmetric dihydroxylation, which uses osmate for the conversion of a double bond into a vicinal diol, Karl Barry Sharpless was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2001. [57] [58] OsO4 is very expensive for this use, so KMnO4 is often used instead, even though the yields are less for this cheaper chemical reagent.

In 1898 an Austrian chemist Auer von Welsbach developed the Oslamp with a filament made of osmium, which he introduced commercially in 1902. After only a few years, osmium was replaced by the more stable metal tungsten. Tungsten has the highest melting point among all metals, and its use in light bulbs increases the luminous efficacy and life of incandescent lamps. [37]

The light bulb manufacturer Osram (founded in 1906, when three German companies, Auer-Gesellschaft, AEG and Siemens & Halske, combined their lamp production facilities) derived its name from the elements of osmium and Wolfram (the latter is German for tungsten). [59]

Like palladium, powdered osmium effectively absorbs hydrogen atoms. This could make osmium a potential candidate for a metal-hydride battery electrode. However, osmium is expensive and would react with potassium hydroxide, the most common battery electrolyte. [60]

Osmium has high reflectivity in the ultraviolet range of the electromagnetic spectrum; for example, at 600 Å osmium has a reflectivity twice that of gold. [61] This high reflectivity is desirable in space-based UV spectrometers, which have reduced mirror sizes due to space limitations. Osmium-coated mirrors were flown in several space missions aboard the Space Shuttle, but it soon became clear that the oxygen radicals in the low Earth orbit are abundant enough to significantly deteriorate the osmium layer. [62]

The only known clinical use of osmium is synovectomy in arthritic patients in Scandinavia. [63] It involves the local administration of osmium tetroxide (OsO4), which is a highly toxic compound. The lack of reports of long-term side effects suggest that osmium itself can be biocompatible, though this depends on the osmium compound administered. In 2011, osmium(VI) [64] and osmium(II) [65] compounds were reported to show anticancer activity in vivo, it indicated a promising future for using osmium compounds as anticancer drugs. [66]


Metallic osmium is harmless [69] but finely divided metallic osmium is pyrophoric [52] and reacts with oxygen at room temperature, forming volatile osmium tetroxide. Some osmium compounds are also converted to the tetroxide if oxygen is present. [52] This makes osmium tetroxide the main source of contact with the environment.

Osmium tetroxide is highly volatile and penetrates skin readily, and is very toxic by inhalation, ingestion, and skin contact. [70] Airborne low concentrations of osmium tetroxide vapor can cause lung congestion and skin or eye damage, and should therefore be used in a fume hood. [19] Osmium tetroxide is rapidly reduced to relatively inert compounds by e.g. ascorbic acid [71] or polyunsaturated vegetable oils (such as corn oil). [72]


Osmium is usually sold as a minimum 99.9% pure powder. Like other precious metals, it is measured by troy weight and by grams.The market price of osmium has not changed in decades, primarily because little change has occurred in supply and demand. In addition to so little of it being available, osmium is difficult to work with, has few uses, and is a challenge to store safely because of the toxic compound it produces when it oxidizes.

While the price of $400 per troy ounce has remained steady since the 1990s, inflation since that time has led to the metal losing about one-third of its value in the two decades prior to 2019.

Related Research Articles

Hassium Chemical element with atomic number 108

Hassium is a chemical element with the symbol Hs and the atomic number 108. It is not known to occur in nature and has been made only in laboratories in minuscule quantities. Hassium is highly radioactive; the most stable known isotope, 269Hs, has a half-life of approximately 16 seconds.

Meitnerium Chemical element with atomic number 109

Meitnerium is a synthetic chemical element with the symbol Mt and atomic number 109. It is an extremely radioactive synthetic element. The most stable known isotope, meitnerium-278, has a half-life of 4.5 seconds, although the unconfirmed meitnerium-282 may have a longer half-life of 67 seconds. The GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research near Darmstadt, Germany, first created this element in 1982. It is named after Lise Meitner.

Palladium Chemical element with atomic number 46

Palladium is a chemical element with the symbol Pd and atomic number 46. It is a rare and lustrous silvery-white metal discovered in 1803 by William Hyde Wollaston. He named it after the asteroid Pallas, which was itself named after the epithet of the Greek goddess Athena, acquired by her when she slew Pallas. Palladium, platinum, rhodium, ruthenium, iridium and osmium form a group of elements referred to as the platinum group metals (PGMs). These have similar chemical properties, but palladium has the lowest melting point and is the least dense of them.

Platinum Chemical element with atomic number 78

Platinum is a chemical element with the symbol Pt and atomic number 78. It is a dense, malleable, ductile, highly unreactive, precious, silverish-white transition metal. Its name is derived from the Spanish term platino, meaning "little silver".

Rhenium Chemical element with atomic number 75

Rhenium is a chemical element with the symbol Re and atomic number 75. It is a silvery-gray, heavy, third-row transition metal in group 7 of the periodic table. With an estimated average concentration of 1 part per billion (ppb), rhenium is one of the rarest elements in the Earth's crust. Rhenium has the third-highest melting point and highest boiling point of any stable element at 5903 K. Rhenium resembles manganese and technetium chemically and is mainly obtained as a by-product of the extraction and refinement of molybdenum and copper ores. Rhenium shows in its compounds a wide variety of oxidation states ranging from −1 to +7.

Tellurium Chemical element with atomic number 52

Tellurium is a chemical element with the symbol Te and atomic number 52. It is a brittle, mildly toxic, rare, silver-white metalloid. Tellurium is chemically related to selenium and sulfur, all three of which are chalcogens. It is occasionally found in native form as elemental crystals. Tellurium is far more common in the universe as a whole than on Earth. Its extreme rarity in the Earth's crust, comparable to that of platinum, is due partly to its formation of a volatile hydride that caused tellurium to be lost to space as a gas during the hot nebular formation of Earth, and partly to tellurium's low affinity for oxygen, which causes it to bind preferentially to other chalcophiles in dense minerals that sink into the core.

A period 5 element is one of the chemical elements in the fifth row of the periodic table of the elements. The periodic table is laid out in rows to illustrate recurring (periodic) trends in the chemical behaviour of the elements as their atomic number increases: a new row is begun when chemical behaviour begins to repeat, meaning that elements with similar behaviour fall into the same vertical columns. The fifth period contains 18 elements, beginning with rubidium and ending with xenon. As a rule, period 5 elements fill their 5s shells first, then their 4d, and 5p shells, in that order; however, there are exceptions, such as rhodium.

Noble metal Metals resistant to corrosion and oxidation

In chemistry, the noble metals are metals that are resistant to corrosion and oxidation in moist air. The short list of chemically noble metals comprises ruthenium (Ru), rhodium (Rh), palladium (Pd), silver (Ag), osmium (Os), iridium (Ir), platinum (Pt), and gold (Au).

A period 6 element is one of the chemical elements in the sixth row (or period) of the periodic table of the elements, including the lanthanides. The periodic table is laid out in rows to illustrate recurring (periodic) trends in the chemical behaviour of the elements as their atomic number increases: a new row is begun when chemical behaviour begins to repeat, meaning that elements with similar behaviour fall into the same vertical columns. The sixth period contains 32 elements, tied for the most with period 7, beginning with caesium and ending with radon. Lead is currently the last stable element; all subsequent elements are radioactive. For bismuth, however, its only primordial isotope, 209Bi, has a half-life of more than 1019 years, over a billion times longer than the current age of the universe. As a rule, period 6 elements fill their 6s shells first, then their 4f, 5d, and 6p shells, in that order; however, there are exceptions, such as gold.

The platinum-group metals are six noble, precious metallic elements clustered together in the periodic table. These elements are all transition metals in the d-block.

Ruthenium tetroxide is the inorganic compound with the formula RuO4. It is a yellow volatile solid that melts near room temperature. Samples are typically black due to impurities. The analogous OsO4 is more widely used and better known. One of the few solvents in which RuO4 forms stable solutions is CCl4.

The Lemieux–Johnson or Malaprade–Lemieux–Johnson oxidation is a chemical reaction in which an olefin undergoes oxidative cleavage to form two aldehyde or ketone units. The reaction is named after its inventors, Raymond Urgel Lemieux and William Summer Johnson, who published it in 1956. The reaction proceeds in a two step manner, beginning with dihydroxylation of the alkene by osmium tetroxide, followed by a Malaprade reaction to cleave the diol using periodate. Excess periodate is used to regenerate the osmium tetroxide, allowing it to be used in catalytic amounts. The Lemieux–Johnson reaction ceases at the aldehyde stage of oxidation and therefore produces the same results as ozonolysis.

Osmium dioxide chemical compound

Osmium dioxide is an inorganic compound with the formula OsO2. It exists as brown to black crystalline powder, but single crystals are golden and exhibit metallic conductivity. The compound crystallizes in the rutile structural motif, i.e. the connectivity is very similar to that in the mineral rutile.

A transition metal oxo complex is a coordination complex containing an oxo ligand. Formally O2-, an oxo ligand can be bound to one or more metal centers, i.e. it can exist as a terminal or (most commonly) as bridging ligands (Fig. 1). Oxo ligands stabilize high oxidation states of a metal.

Potassium osmate chemical compound

Potassium osmate is the inorganic compound with the formula K2[OsO2(OH)4]. This diamagnetic purple salt contains osmium in the VI (6+) oxidation state. When dissolved in water a pink solution is formed but when dissolved in methanol, the salt gives a blue solution. The salt gained attention as a catalyst for the asymmetric dihydroxylation of olefins.

Fluorine forms a great variety of chemical compounds, within which it always adopts an oxidation state of −1. With other atoms, fluorine forms either polar covalent bonds or ionic bonds. Most frequently, covalent bonds involving fluorine atoms are single bonds, although at least two examples of a higher order bond exist. Fluoride may act as a bridging ligand between two metals in some complex molecules. Molecules containing fluorine may also exhibit hydrogen bonding. Fluorine's chemistry includes inorganic compounds formed with hydrogen, metals, nonmetals, and even noble gases; as well as a diverse set of organic compounds. For many elements the highest known oxidation state can be achieved in a fluoride. For some elements this is achieved exclusively in a fluoride, for others exclusively in an oxide; and for still others the highest oxidation states of oxides and fluorides are always equal.


  1. Meija, Juris; et al. (2016). "Atomic weights of the elements 2013 (IUPAC Technical Report)". Pure and Applied Chemistry . 88 (3): 265–91. doi: 10.1515/pac-2015-0305 .
  2. 1 2 Haynes 2011, p. 4.134.
  3. 1 2 Haynes 2011, p. 4.25.
  4. Fleischer, Michael (1953). "Recent estimates of the abundances of the elements in the Earth's crust" (PDF). U.S. Geological Survey.
  5. "Reading: Abundance of Elements in Earth's Crust | Geology". courses.lumenlearning.com. Retrieved May 10, 2018.
  6. Arblaster, J. W. (1989). "Densities of osmium and iridium: recalculations based upon a review of the latest crystallographic data" (PDF). Platinum Metals Review. 33 (1): 14–16.
  7. Arblaster, J. W. (1995). "Osmium, the Densest Metal Known". Platinum Metals Review. 39 (4): 164.
  8. Weinberger, Michelle; Tolbert, Sarah; Kavner, Abby (2008). "Osmium Metal Studied under High Pressure and Nonhydrostatic Stress". Phys. Rev. Lett. 100 (4): 045506. Bibcode:2008PhRvL.100d5506W. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.100.045506. PMID   18352299.
  9. Cynn, Hyunchae; Klepeis, J. E.; Yeo, C. S.; Young, D. A. (2002). "Osmium has the Lowest Experimentally Determined Compressibility" (PDF). Physical Review Letters. 88 (13): 135701. Bibcode:2002PhRvL..88m5701C. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.88.135701. PMID   11955108.
  10. Sahu, B. R.; Kleinman, L. (2005). "Osmium Is Not Harder Than Diamond". Physical Review B. 72 (11): 113106. Bibcode:2005PhRvB..72k3106S. doi:10.1103/PhysRevB.72.113106.
  11. Stoye, Emma (October 23, 2014). "Iridium forms compound in +9 oxidation state". Royal Society of Chemistry.
  12. Selig, H.; Claassen, H. H.; Chernick, C. L.; Malm, J. G.; et al. (1964). "Xenon tetroxide – Preparation + Some Properties". Science. 143 (3612): 1322–3. Bibcode:1964Sci...143.1322S. doi:10.1126/science.143.3612.1322. JSTOR   1713238. PMID   17799234.
  13. Huston, J. L.; Studier, M. H.; Sloth, E. N. (1964). "Xenon tetroxide – Mass Spectrum". Science. 143 (3611): 1162–3. Bibcode:1964Sci...143.1161H. doi:10.1126/science.143.3611.1161-a. JSTOR   1712675. PMID   17833897.
  14. Barnard, C. F. J. (2004). "Oxidation States of Ruthenium and Osmium". Platinum Metals Review. 48 (4): 157. doi:10.1595/147106704X10801.
  15. "Chemistry of Hassium" (PDF). Gesellschaft für Schwerionenforschung mbH. 2002. Retrieved January 31, 2007.
  16. Gong, Yu; Zhou, Mingfei; Kaupp, Martin; Riedel, Sebastian (2009). "Formation and Characterization of the Iridium Tetroxide Molecule with Iridium in the Oxidation State +VIII". Angewandte Chemie International Edition. 48 (42): 7879–83. doi:10.1002/anie.200902733. PMID   19593837.
  17. Krause, J.; Siriwardane, Upali; Salupo, Terese A.; Wermer, Joseph R.; et al. (1993). "Preparation of [Os3(CO)11]2− and its reactions with Os3(CO)12; structures of [Et4N] [HOs3(CO)11] and H2OsS4(CO)". Journal of Organometallic Chemistry. 454: 263–271. doi:10.1016/0022-328X(93)83250-Y.
  18. Carter, Willie J.; Kelland, John W.; Okrasinski, Stanley J.; Warner, Keith E.; et al. (1982). "Mononuclear hydrido alkyl carbonyl complexes of osmium and their polynuclear derivatives". Inorganic Chemistry. 21 (11): 3955–3960. doi:10.1021/ic00141a019.
  19. 1 2 Mager Stellman, J. (1998). "Osmium". Encyclopaedia of Occupational Health and Safety. International Labour Organization. p. 63.34. ISBN   978-92-2-109816-4. OCLC   35279504.
  20. 1 2 Holleman, A. F.; Wiberg, E.; Wiberg, N. (2001). Inorganic Chemistry (1st ed.). Academic Press. ISBN   978-0-12-352651-9. OCLC   47901436.
  21. 1 2 Griffith, W. P. (1965). "Osmium and its compounds". Quarterly Reviews, Chemical Society. 19 (3): 254–273. doi:10.1039/QR9651900254.
  22. Subcommittee on Platinum-Group Metals, Committee on Medical and Biologic Effects of Environmental Pollutants, Division of Medical Sciences, Assembly of Life Sciences, National Research Council (1977). Platinum-group metals. National Academy of Sciences. p. 55. ISBN   978-0-309-02640-6.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  23. 1 2 Bozzola, John J.; Russell, Lonnie D. (1999). "Specimen Preparation for Transmission Electron Microscopy". Electron microscopy : principles and techniques for biologists. Sudbury, Mass.: Jones and Bartlett. pp. 21–31. ISBN   978-0-7637-0192-5.
  24. Greenwood, N. N.; Earnshaw, A. (1997). Chemistry of the Elements (2nd ed.). Oxford:Butterworth-Heinemann. pp. 1113–1143, 1294. ISBN   978-0-7506-3365-9. OCLC   213025882.
  25. Gulliver, D. J; Levason, W. (1982). "The chemistry of ruthenium, osmium, rhodium, iridium, palladium and platinum in the higher oxidation states". Coordination Chemistry Reviews. 46: 1–127. doi:10.1016/0010-8545(82)85001-7.
  26. Sykes, A. G. (1992). Advances in Inorganic Chemistry. Academic Press. p. 221. ISBN   978-0-12-023637-4.
  27. "Osmium".
  28. Audi, Georges; Bersillon, Olivier; Blachot, Jean; Wapstra, Aaldert Hendrik (2003), "The NUBASE evaluation of nuclear and decay properties", Nuclear Physics A, 729: 3–128, Bibcode:2003NuPhA.729....3A, doi:10.1016/j.nuclphysa.2003.11.001
  29. Dąbek, Józef; Halas, Stanislaw (2007). "Physical Foundations of Rhenium-Osmium Method – A Review". Geochronometria. 27: 23–26. doi:10.2478/v10003-007-0011-4.
  30. Alvarez, L. W.; Alvarez, W.; Asaro, F.; Michel, H. V. (1980). "Extraterrestrial cause for the Cretaceous–Tertiary extinction" (PDF). Science. 208 (4448): 1095–1108. Bibcode:1980Sci...208.1095A. CiteSeerX . doi:10.1126/science.208.4448.1095. PMID   17783054.
  31. Venetskii, S. I. (1974). "Osmium". Metallurgist. 18 (2): 155–157. doi:10.1007/BF01132596.
  32. McDonald, M. (959). "The Platinum of New Granada: Mining and Metallurgy in the Spanish Colonial Empire". Platinum Metals Review. 3 (4): 140–145.
  33. Juan, J.; de Ulloa, A. (1748). Relación histórica del viage a la América Meridional (in Spanish). 1. p. 606.
  34. 1 2 3 4 5 Hunt, L. B. (1987). "A History of Iridium" (PDF). Platinum Metals Review. 31 (1): 32–41. Retrieved March 15, 2012.
  35. Haubrichs, Rolf; Zaffalon, Pierre-Leonard (2017). "Osmium vs. 'Ptène': The Naming of the Densest Metal". Johnson Matthey Technology Review. 61 (3): 190. doi:10.1595/205651317x695631.
  36. 1 2 3 Emsley, J. (2003). "Osmium". Nature's Building Blocks: An A-Z Guide to the Elements. Oxford, England, UK: Oxford University Press. pp. 199–201. ISBN   978-0-19-850340-8.
  37. 1 2 3 Griffith, W. P. (2004). "Bicentenary of Four Platinum Group Metals. Part II: Osmium and iridium – events surrounding their discoveries". Platinum Metals Review. 48 (4): 182–189. doi:10.1595/147106704X4844.
  38. Thomson, T. (1831). A System of Chemistry of Inorganic Bodies. Baldwin & Cradock, London; and William Blackwood, Edinburgh. p. 693.
  39. Weeks, M. E. (1968). Discovery of the Elements (7 ed.). Journal of Chemical Education. pp. 414–418. ISBN   978-0-8486-8579-9. OCLC   23991202.
  40. Tennant, S. (1804). "On Two Metals, Found in the Black Powder Remaining after the Solution of Platina" (PDF). Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. 94: 411–418. doi:10.1098/rstl.1804.0018. JSTOR   107152.
  41. Smil, Vaclav (2004). Enriching the Earth: Fritz Haber, Carl Bosch, and the Transformation of World Food Production. MIT Press. pp. 80–86. ISBN   978-0-262-69313-4.
  42. 1 2 George, Micheal W. "2006 Minerals Yearbook: Platinum-Group Metals" (PDF). United States Geological Survey USGS. Retrieved September 16, 2008.
  43. Wedepohl, Hans K (1995). "The composition of the continental crust". Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta. 59 (7): 1217–1232. Bibcode:1995GeCoA..59.1217W. doi:10.1016/0016-7037(95)00038-2.
  44. Xiao, Z.; Laplante, A. R. (2004). "Characterizing and recovering the platinum group minerals—a review". Minerals Engineering. 17 (9–10): 961–979. doi:10.1016/j.mineng.2004.04.001.
  45. 1 2 3 Seymour, R. J.; O'Farrelly, J. I. (2001). "Platinum-group metals". Kirk Othmer Encyclopedia of Chemical Technology. Wiley. doi:10.1002/0471238961.1612012019052513.a01.pub2. ISBN   978-0471238966.
  46. "Commodity Report: Platinum-Group Metals" (PDF). United States Geological Survey USGS. Retrieved September 16, 2008.
  47. George, M. W. (2008). "Platinum-group metals" (PDF). U.S. Geological Survey Mineral Commodity Summaries.
  48. George, M. W. 2006 Minerals Yearbook: Platinum-Group Metals (PDF). United States Geological Survey USGS. Retrieved September 16, 2008.
  49. Renner, H.; Schlamp, G.; Kleinwächter, I.; Drost, E.; et al. (2002). "Platinum group metals and compounds". Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry. Wiley. doi:10.1002/14356007.a21_075. ISBN   978-3527306732.
  50. Gilchrist, Raleigh (1943). "The Platinum Metals". Chemical Reviews. 32 (3): 277–372. doi:10.1021/cr60103a002.
  51. Hunt, L. B.; Lever, F. M. (1969). "Platinum Metals: A Survey of Productive Resources to industrial Uses" (PDF). Platinum Metals Review. 13 (4): 126–138. Retrieved October 2, 2008.
  52. 1 2 3 Smith, Ivan C.; Carson, Bonnie L.; Ferguson, Thomas L. (1974). "Osmium: An Appraisal of Environmental Exposure". Environmental Health Perspectives. 8: 201–213. doi:10.2307/3428200. JSTOR   3428200. PMC   1474945 . PMID   4470919.
  53. "Platinum-Group Metals" (PDF). USGS. Retrieved May 27, 2013.
  54. Cramer, Stephen D. & Covino, Bernard S. Jr. (2005). ASM Handbook Volume 13B. Corrosion: Materials. ASM International. ISBN   978-0-87170-707-9.
  55. MacDonell, Herbert L. (1960). "The Use of Hydrogen Fluoride in the Development of Latent Fingerprints Found on Glass Surfaces". The Journal of Criminal Law, Criminology, and Police Science. 51 (4): 465–470. doi:10.2307/1140672. JSTOR   1140672.
  56. Chadwick, D. (2002). Role of the sarcoplasmic reticulum in smooth muscle . John Wiley and Sons. pp. 259–264. ISBN   978-0-470-84479-3.
  57. Kolb, H. C.; Van Nieuwenhze, M. S.; Sharpless, K. B. (1994). "Catalytic Asymmetric Dihydroxylation". Chemical Reviews. 94 (8): 2483–2547. doi:10.1021/cr00032a009.
  58. Colacot, T. J. (2002). "2001 Nobel Prize in Chemistry" (PDF). Platinum Metals Review. 46 (2): 82–83.
  59. Bowers, B., B. (2001). "Scanning our past from London: the filament lamp and new materials". Proceedings of the IEEE. 89 (3): 413–415. doi:10.1109/5.915382.
  60. Antonov, V. E.; Belash, I. T.; Malyshev, V. Yu.; Ponyatovsky, E. G. (1984). "The Solubility of Hydrogen in the Platinum Metals under High Pressure" (PDF). Platinum Metals Review. 28 (4): 158–163.
  61. Torr, Marsha R. (1985). "Osmium coated diffraction grating in the Space Shuttle environment: performance". Applied Optics. 24 (18): 2959. Bibcode:1985ApOpt..24.2959T. doi:10.1364/AO.24.002959. PMID   18223987.
  62. Gull, T. R.; Herzig, H.; Osantowski, J. F.; Toft, A. R. (1985). "Low earth orbit environmental effects on osmium and related optical thin-film coatings". Applied Optics. 24 (16): 2660. Bibcode:1985ApOpt..24.2660G. doi:10.1364/AO.24.002660. PMID   18223936.
  63. Sheppeard, H.; D. J. Ward (1980). "Intra-articular osmic acid in rheumatoid arthritis: five years' experience". Rheumatology. 19 (1): 25–29. doi:10.1093/rheumatology/19.1.25. PMID   7361025.
  64. Lau, T.-C; W.-X. Ni; W.-L. Man; M. T.-W. Cheung; et al. (2011). "Osmium(vi) complexes as a new class of potential anti-cancer agents". Chem. Commun. 47 (7): 2140–2142. doi:10.1039/C0CC04515B. PMID   21203649.
  65. Sadler, Peter; Steve D. Shnyder; Ying Fu; Abraha Habtemariam; et al. (2011). "Anti-colorectal cancer activity of an organometallic osmium arene azopyridine complex" (PDF). Med. Chem. Commun. 2 (7): 666–668. doi:10.1039/C1MD00075F.
  66. Fu, Ying; Romero, María J.; Habtemariam, Abraha; et al. (2012). "The contrasting chemical reactivity of potent isoelectronic iminopyridine and azopyridine osmium(II) arene anticancer complexes" (PDF). Chemical Science. 3 (8): 2485–2494. doi:10.1039/C2SC20220D.
  67. Linton, Roger C.; Kamenetzky, Rachel R. (1992). "Second LDEF post-retrieval symposium interim results of experiment A0034" (PDF). NASA. Retrieved June 6, 2009.
  68. Linton, Roger C.; Kamenetzky, Rachel R.; Reynolds, John M.; Burris, Charles L. (1992). "LDEF experiment A0034: Atomic oxygen stimulated outgassing". NASA. Langley Research Center: 763. Bibcode:1992ldef.symp..763L.
  69. McLaughlin, A. I. G.; Milton, R.; Perry, Kenneth M. A. (July 1946). "Toxic Manifestations of Osmium Tetroxide". British Journal of Industrial Medicine. 3 (3): 183–186. doi:10.1136/oem.3.3.183. ISSN   0007-1072. PMC   1035752 . PMID   20991177.
  70. Luttrell, William E.; Giles, Cory B. (2007). "Toxic tips: Osmium tetroxide". Journal of Chemical Health and Safety. 14 (5): 40–41. doi:10.1016/j.jchas.2007.07.003.
  71. Mushran S.P., Mehrotra U.S. (1970). "Oxidation of ascorbic acid by osmium(VIII)". Canadian Journal of Chemistry. 48 (7): 1148–1150. doi:10.1139/v70-188.
  72. "How to Handle Osmium Tetroxide". University of California, San Diego. Archived from the original on February 21, 2006. Retrieved June 2, 2009.