Since nucleons (protons and neutrons) make up most of the mass of ordinary atoms, the density of normal matter tends to be limited by how closely we can pack these nucleons and depends on the internal atomic structure. The densest material found on earth is the metal osmium. Still, its density pales by comparison to the densities of exotic astronomical objects such as white dwarf stars and neutron stars.
List of densest materials:
- Osmium – 22.6 x 103 kg/m3
- Iridium – 22.4 x 103 kg/m3
- Platinum – 21.5 x 103 kg/m3
- Rhenium – 21.0 x 103 kg/m3
- Plutonium – 19.8 x 103 kg/m3
- Gold – 19.3 x 103 kg/m3
- Tungsten – 19.3 x 103 kg/m3
- Uranium – 18.8 x 103 kg/m3
- Tantalum – 16.6 x 103 kg/m3
- Mercury – 13.6 x 103 kg/m3
- Rhodium – 12.4 x 103 kg/m3
- Thorium – 11.7 x 103 kg/m3
- Lead – 11.3 x 103 kg/m3
- Silver – 10.5 x 103 kg/m3
It must be noted, plutonium is a manufactured isotope and is created from uranium in nuclear reactors. But scientists have found trace amounts of naturally-occurring plutonium.
If we include manufactured elements, the densest so far is Hassium. Hassium is a chemical element with the symbol Hs and atomic number 108. It is a synthetic element (first synthesized at Hasse in Germany) and radioactive. The most stable known isotope, 269Hs, has a half-life of approximately 9.7 seconds. It has an estimated density of 40.7 x 103 kg/m3. The density of Hassium results from its high atomic weight and the significant decrease in ionic radii of the elements in the lanthanide series, known as lanthanide and actinide contraction.
The density of Hassium is followed by Meitnerium (element 109, named after the physicist Lise Meitner), which has an estimated density of 37.4 x 103 kg/m3.
The density of Nuclear Matter
Nuclear density is the density of the nucleus of an atom. It is the ratio of mass per unit volume inside the nucleus. Since the atomic nucleus carries most of the atom’s mass and the atomic nucleus is very small compared to the entire atom, the nuclear density is very high.
The nuclear density for a typical nucleus can be approximately calculated from the size of the nucleus and its mass. Typical nuclear radii are of the order 10−14 m. Nuclear radii can be calculated according to the following formula assuming spherical shape:
r = r0 . A1/3
where r0 = 1.2 x 10-15 m = 1.2 fm
For example, natural uranium consists primarily of isotope 238U (99.28%). Therefore the atomic mass of the uranium element is close to the atomic mass of the 238U isotope (238.03u). The radius of this nucleus will be:
r = r0 . A1/3 = 7.44 fm.
Assuming it is spherical, its volume will be:
V = 4πr3/3 = 1.73 x 10-42 m3.
The usual definition of nuclear density gives for its density:
ρnucleus = m / V = 238 x 1.66 x 10-27 / (1.73 x 10-42) = 2.3 x 1017 kg/m3.
Thus, the density of nuclear material is more than 2.1014 times greater than that of water. It is an immense density. The descriptive term nuclear density is also applied to situations where similarly high densities occur, such as within neutron stars. Such immense densities are also found in neutron stars.