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Name that element! It's the ninth most abundant element in Earth's crust. It's as strong as steel but half as heavy, and you might find it in your braces, bike, even candy! What is it? To find out, grab a periodic table and follow these eight clues. Then turn the page to test your chem IQ. (New Science Mystery Series!).


Like all elements, this one is composed of atoms, the basic building blocks of matter. Each atom's nucleus, or center, is packed with positively charged protons and neutrally charged neutrons. Outside the nucleus swirl negatively charged electrons. The mystery element has 22 protons in its nucleus.

(Guessed it? You're a chem whiz!)



This element exists in nature not as a pure element, like gold or sulfur, but as an ore, a mineral compound that contains two or more elements. Ores are mined for industrial uses. The mystery element is extracted from a shiny reddish-brown ore called rutile.

(Need another clue? Read on!)



Combined with the metallic element nickel (NI), the mystery element forms an alloy called nitinol. An alloy is a human-made metal forged from two or more natural metals, like iron and copper. Some hi-tech braces are made of nitinol because it has "shape memory": The metal slowly springs back to its original form when bent. Nitinol braces around crooked teeth eventually tug them straight.

(Nabbed it? Move over, Marie Curie!)



This transition metal combines with oxygen to form a white compound, a molecule made of two or more elements. The compound is an ingredient in paint, paper, and even the white food coloring found on some candies.

(Still searching? More clues ahead ...)



When it comes to tennis rackets, this element is an ace! It reacts with oxygen to form a microscopic coating that protects against corrosion. Some metals, like iron (Fe), corrode when oxidized, or combined with oxygen in air or water. The chemical reaction pulls electrons away from the iron atoms and causes decay. But when this element oxidizes (losing four of its 22 electrons), the reaction forms a thin film of tightly packed molecules on its surface. The film locks out water and oxygen to guard against further corrosion.

(Still stuck? The sixth clue's a charm.)



Talk is cheap--but not if you're using the Nokia 8910 phone. It will set you back about 1,000! The phone is expensive in part because the casing is crafted from the mystery element, which requires a costly chemical process to isolate it from oxygen. Most metals easily combine with oxygen and exist in nature as metal oxides.

Metal elements, found on the left-hand side of the periodic table, lose outer electrons to non-metal elements, found on the right-hand side of the periodic table. The electron transfer bonds the elements together.

(Mystery solved? Hard work pays off!)



The mystery metal is biocompatible: It doesn't react with organic, or carbon-living material like body cause Infections. The medical-friendly element is used in artificial hips, bone-fracture pins, even artificial hearts.

(No idea? Here's your last hint ...)



This metal is made for pedaling! Its lightness and strength make it perfect bike-frame material. The mystery element has a lower atomic mass than iron, the main metallic element in steel, but a greater atomic mass than the element scandium (Sc). It also has half the density (amount of mass per unit volume) of steel--but is equal in strength.

(Still puzzled? See the TE for the answer.)




Key definitions:

ATOMIC NUMBER equals the number of protons (positively-charged particles) in an atom's nucleus, or center. Every element contains a different number of proton, and hence has a unique atomic number.

ATOMIC MASS equals the number of proton plus the number of neutrons found in a single atom of an element. The weight of an atom resides in its nucleus which houses both protons and neutrons.

The Periodic Table

The periodic table is a systematic way to organize Earth's elements, substances that can't be broken down into simpler substances. Today, there are 112 known and named chemical elements. Elements are arranged according to their increasing atomic number. Hydrogen (H), for example, has an atomic number of 1 and is the lightest known natural element on Earth. Uranium (U), atomic number 92, is the heaviest. Scientists have created elements with atomic numbers and mass greater than uranium-but they don't exist naturally.



Test your chemistry IQ! Answer the following questions about elements and the periodic table.

(1) Name the mystery element! --

(2) The element lithium (LI) has an atomic humble of 3. Use this Information to determine its:

A number of protons

B number of electrons

C atomic mass

(3) Sodium (NE) is mast likely to farm a chemical band with:

A sulfur (S)

B zinc (Zn)

C chlorine (Cl)

D potassium (K)

(4) Elements in the same column an the periodic table have similar physical and chemical properties. The mystery element is most similar to which three elements:

A niobium (Nb), tantalum (Ta), dubnium (Db)

B zirconium (Zr), hafnium (Hf), rutherfordium (Rf)

C yttrium (Y), lutetium (Lu), lawrencium (Lr)

D rhodium (Rh), iridium (Ir), meitnerium (Mt)

(5) All motels are solid at roam temperature. Name the one exception to this rule. (Hint: It's used in both thermometers and thermostats.)

(6) Which of the following statements are true about the periodic table:

A The elements are listed in order of decreasing atomic mass.

B The elements are listed in order of increasing atomic number.

C The horizontal rows of a periodic table are called groups.

D The vertical rows of a periodic table are called groups.

Did You Know?

* The name titanium comes from the "Titans" of Greek mythology: They were the 12 sons and daughters of Uranus (god of the sky) and Gaia (Earth goddess).

* William Gregor, an English reverend with an interest in minerals, discovered titanium in 1791. He found the element while studying black magnetic sand in Cornwall. He called his discovery "menachin."

* Titanium is 60 percent heavier that aluminum and is twice as strong.

Cross-Curricular Connection

Sports Science: Titanium golf clubs have gained popularity in recent years. In 1996, the manufacture of golf clubs used 20 percent of all U.S. titanium production. How has titanium improved some golfers' game?

Critical Thinking: Without titanium; what are some everyday products--in addition to those mentioned in the article--that would not exist?


For a fun way to learn about the periodic table, visit the University of Kentucky Department of Chemistry's The Periodic Table of Comic Books:

For more on titanium: ments/titanium/key.html

Directions: Match the word in the left column with the correct phrase
in the right column.

-- 1. ore a. positively charged particles
-- 2. atom b. amount of mass per unit volume
-- 3. electrons c. center of atom
-- 4. density d. molecule made of two or more elements
-- 5. nucleus e. basic building block of matter
-- 6. protons f. negatively charged particles
-- 7. neutrons g. neutrally charged particles
-- 8. compound h. a mineral compound


1. h 2. e 3. f 4. b 5. c 6. a 7. g 8. d

1. Titanium 2. A 3. C 4. B 5. Mercury 6. B, D
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Author:Winerman, Lea
Publication:Science World
Date:Oct 18, 2002
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