Iridium is the chemical element with atomic number 77, and is represented by the symbol Ir. A very hard, brittle, silvery-white transition metal of the platinum family, iridium is the second densest element (after osmium) and is the most corrosion-resistant metal, even at temperatures as high as 2000 °C. Although only certain molten salts and halogens are corrosive to solid iridium, finely divided iridium dust is much more reactive and can even be flammable. The most important iridium compounds in use are the salts and acids it forms with chlorine, though iridium also forms a number of organometallic compounds used in catalysis and in research. 191Ir and 193Ir are the only two naturally occurring isotopes of iridium as well as the only stable isotopes; the latter is the more abundant of the two.

Iridium was discovered in 1803 by Smithson Tennant in London, England, among insoluble impurities in natural platinum from South America. It has a number of specialized industrial and scientific applications. Iridium is employed when high corrosion resistance at high temperatures is needed, as crucibles for recrystallization of semiconductors at high temperatures, electrodes for the production of chlorine in the chloralkali process, and radioisotope thermoelectric generators used in unmanned spacecraft. Iridium compounds also find applications as catalysts for the production of acetic acid.


A member of the platinum group metals, iridium is white, resembling platinum, but with a slight yellowish cast. Because of its hardness, brittleness, and very high melting point (the ninth highest of all elements), solid iridium is difficult to machine, form, or work, and thus powder metallurgy is commonly employed instead. It is the only metal to maintain good mechanical properties in air at temperatures above 1600 °C. Iridium has a very high boiling point (11th among all elements) and becomes a superconductor at temperatures below 0.14 K.

Iridium's modulus of elasticity is the second highest among the metals, only being surpassed by osmium. This, together with a high modulus of rigidity and a very low figure for Poisson's ratio (the relationship of longitudinal to lateral strain), indicate the high degree of stiffness and resistance to deformation that have rendered its fabrication into useful components a matter of great difficulty. Despite these limitations, a number of applications have developed where mechanical strength is an essential factor in some of the extremely severe conditions encountered in modern technology.

The measured density of iridium is only slightly lower (by about 0.1%) than that of osmium, the densest element known. There had been some ambiguity regarding which of the two elements was denser, due to the small size of the difference in density and difficulties in measuring it accurately, but, with increased accuracy in factors used for calculating density X-ray crystallographic data yielded densities of 22.56 g/cm3 for iridium and 22.59 g/cm3 for osmium.

Iridium is the most corrosion-resistant metal known: it is not attacked by any acid, by aqua regia, by any molten metals, or by silicates at high temperatures. It can, however, be attacked by some molten salts, such as sodium cyanide and potassium cyanide, as well as oxygen and the halogens (particularly fluorine) at higher temperatures.


The base value of each unit of ranges between 5 and 20Ð per unit, with up to 3 units being found at any one time.

Presence on Mars: Rare

Martian Minerals
Group 1 | Group 2 | Group 3 | Group 4 | Group 5 | Group 6
Group 3 |Antimony | Astatine | Barium | Bismuth | Cesium | Francium | Hafnium | Indium | Iodine | Iridium | Lanthanum | Lead | Mercury | |Osmium | Platinum | Polonium | Radium | Radon | Rhenium | Tantalum | Tellurium | Thallium | Tin | Tungsten | Xenon|

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