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What Is the Heaviest Element?

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This is a 1 gram bead of osmium. Osmium is extremely dense, about twice as heavy as lead.

This is a 1 gram bead of osmium. Osmium is extremely dense, about twice as heavy as lead.

Tomihahndorf, Free Documentation License

Question: What Is the Heaviest Element?

Are you wondering which element is the heaviest? Here's an answer to the question.

Answer: There are two ways of answering this question, depending on how you define 'heaviest'. The heaviest element in terms of heaviest per a given number of atoms is the element with the highest atomic weight. This is the element with the largest number of protons, which is presently element 118, ununoctium. When a heavier element is discovered (e.g., element 120), then that will become the new heaviest element. Ununoctium is the heaviest element, but it is man-made. The heaviest naturally-occurring element is uranium (atomic number 92, atomic weight 238.0289).

Another way to look at heaviness is in terms of density, which is mass per unit volume. Either of two elements can be considered the element with the highest density: osmium and iridium. The density of the element depends on many factors, so there isn't a single number for density that would allow us to identify one element or the other as the most dense. Each of these elements weigh approximately twice as much as lead. The calculated density of osmium is 22.61 g/cm3 and the calculated density of iridium is 22.65 g/cm3, though the density of iridium has not been experimentally measured to exceed that of osmium.

 

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