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Known since the early 1700's from a reddish-brown rock with splotches of green in it, nickel takes its name from the German kupfernickel, which can be variously translated as the name of a troll or "false copper". It is often found with copper and other similar metals. Before it was isolated in 1751 by Baron Axel Fredrik Cronstedt, it--like cobalt--was known for its ability to color glass (in this case, green).
The U.S. five-cent piece is 25% nickel. The element is also an important alloying agent for stainless steels and in very powerful magnets. Nickel is found in the earth's crust to the extent of about 70 parts per million, about the same as copper and zinc. There is a good chance that a high proportion of the core of the earth is molten nickel.
Unlike its near neighbor copper on the periodic table, nickel is only a fair electrical conductor. But like its other neighbor, cobalt, it is very useful in making strong permanent magnets. It is also highly resistant to attack by alkalis and is used to store and transport concentrated sodium and potassium hydroxide. Nickel reacts with most acids to produce hydrogen gas and the green Ni2+ ion.
Discovered in 1803 by William Wollaston and named after the recently discovered asteroid Pallas, palladium is a silvery-white, soft metal similar to platinum. It is a rare metal (only about 1 part per million in the earth) but occurs commonly along with copper, silver and gold.
Palladium is used as an alloying agent with gold in jewelry ("white gold") and in some dental applications in place of silver or gold. Unlike the other so-called platinum metals, palladium is more susceptible to attack by acids, even hydrochloric acid.
Palladium has the curious ability to absorb large quantities of hydrogen gas (up to 900 times its own volume) and this has generated some interest in its alloys as a storage system for hydrogen as a portable fuel for automobiles. It was also prominent in the "cold fusion" controversy some years ago when it was said (apparently falsely) that when it was made to absorb heavy hydrogen (deuterium), the atoms would undergo fusion and release more energy than was put into the process.
Independently discovered in 1735 by Antonio de Ulloa and in 1741 by Charles Wood, platinum is named from the Spanish platina or "silver". The metal is classified as precious owing to its scarcity and commercial demand. It is very heavy and silvery white and is used in laboratory instruments, jewelry, medical and dental items, and electrical contacts. Because it is immune to air oxidation the metal is often found in native form in nature. It is sometimes found in a rare, naturally occurring alloy, platiniridium.
Naturally occurring platinum is a mixture of six non-radioactive isotopes.
As early as 1991, scientists at Berkeley reported evidence of element 110, but definitive work seems to have emerged in November of 1994 from the GSI laboratory in Darmstadt, Germany. To produce a single atom of 110, the researchers used the UNILAC accelerator to bombard a target of lead over many days with more than a billion nickel atoms. Detectors searched each collision for element 110's distinctive (predicted) decay sequence.
A team at Berkeley duplicated the synthesis, fusing nickel-64 and lead-208 nuclei in June 2003. The IUPAC approved the name "darmstadtium" (after the laboratory at which the discovery was made) in August of 2003.
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