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Osmium

What Is Osmium?

Osmium is a rare metallic element from the Platinum Group Metals (PGMs) and is a transitional metal. Osmium is silvery-gray with a blue cast and high lustre. It is the densest metal with a very high melting point, it is also hard but brittle and has a low vapour pressure.

Did you know? Osmium has a lower compressibility than diamonds.

Osmium is mostly found in nature as an alloy in platinum ores and is the least abundant stable element in the Earth's crust. Commercially osmium is obtained as a by-product from nickel and copper mining and processing. Solid osmium is difficult to work, form and machine and its high costs make commercial applications quite limited.

What Is Osmium Used For?

Osmium is most often used as an alloying agent with iridium, platinum and other PGMs and found in electrical contacts, fountain tipped pens and medical devices. Some compounds are used in fingerprint detection.

Osmium tetroxide is used in chemistry research labs and is highly toxic so its uses are limited. Osmium is sometimes used as a catalyst in the process for making ammonia from combined hydrogen and nitrogen.

Where Is Osmium Mined?

Osmium reserves are found in Bulgaria, Canada and Turkey. Osmium is usually alloyed with iridium and as trace amounts with other PGMs in deposits of copper and nickel ores. It is a by-product of platinum extraction and is primarily mined in South Africa, Canada and Russia. See the map of the osmium world-wide localities.

Conclusion

Osmium is a rare chemical element and is known as a transitional metal and member of the Platinum Group Metals. It is the densest metal which limits its ability to be worked. It is extremely expensive to produce and is most commonly used as an alloying agent and catalyst.

Osmium is most commonly produced in South Africa, Canada and Russia.

If you would like to learn more about minerals and mining visit our Mining and Metals page.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

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