Science Education Home Home Teachers Students Games Videos VA SOL Programs

Questions and Answers

What makes hassium an element if it has no uses except basic scientific research?

An element is not defined by its usefulness, but by the number of protons it contains in its nucleus. Any atom that contains a single proton in its nucleus is called hydrogen. Any atom that contains two protons in its nucleus is called helium. An atom that happens to contain 108 protons in its nucleus is called hassium.

Also, just because an element has no uses today doesn't mean that it won't be useful in the future. One hundred fifty years ago, aluminum was one of the rarest and most valuable of all metals. Since it was rare and expensive, there weren't many uses for it. Once the availability of aluminum increased and the price dropped, more and more uses were found for it.

Now, I'm not saying that hassium is going to be another aluminum. Hassium must be produced atom by atom and its most stable isotope has a half-life of only 9 seconds, so even if you could make a lump of it, it wouldn't stick around very long. Sometimes the fact that something exists at all is use enough.


Steve Gagnon, Science Education Specialist (Other answers by Steve Gagnon)

Citation and linking information

For questions about this page, please contact Steve Gagnon.