January 23 – Happy Birthday, Karl Ernst Claus

Posted on January 23, 2015

Have you ever heard of the platinum group?

I'm not talking about a rock band that has had loads of platinum records (like the Beatles or the Rolling Stones).

Instead, I'm talking about a group of metals that hang out together on the periodic table. These metals are dense and generally inert to most chemicals. That means that they don't easily react with other substances.

This makes these metals highly resistant to wear and tarnish. Chemicals, hot temperatures, electricity—these metals tend to be quite stable no matter what we throw at them. All of these characteristics make the platinum group metals useful to humans!

Today's birthday boy (born on this date in 1796) was a chemist who discovered the last of the platinum group metals. He was Russian, and he named his discovery Ruthenium, which basically was a way of honoring his homeland.

By the way, Karl's name is sometimes seen as Karl Klaus and Carl Claus. If you are wondering what the REAL spelling is...well, he was Russian, so here it is: Карл Ка́рлович Кла́ус.

Ruthenium's chemical symbol is Ru, and its atomic number is 44. That means that there are 44 protons in each and every atom of ruthenium...and 44 electrons in non-ionized atoms, as well. 

The atomic mass is an average. The periodic table give ruthenium's atomic mass as 101.07, so most ruthenium atoms must have 57 neutrons. Some isotopes have from 53 to 58 neutrons.

(Isotopes are forms of an element that have different numbers of neutrons in their nuclei. They are the same in their chemical properties, but different in weight or mass.)

Ru, Rh, Pd, Os, Ir, Pt are the platinum group.
They are ruthenium, rhodium, palladium, osmium, iridium, and platinum.
They make a square in the middle of yellow "transition metals."
To learn more about elements and the Periodic Table, check out this earlier post (scroll down to find links to the Element Song), or this earlier post (scroll down to the cool Interactive Periodic Table of Elements), or this earlier post (with an even better, even more interactive, Periodic Table). 

I loved playing around the history portion of the interactive Periodic Table! 

Also on this date:

National Handwriting Day 

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