Monday, September 30, 2013

Chemistry in the News: New Atom in Periodic Table

Scientists have recently created a new element that may be added to the periodic table in the near future. The reason that I say "may" is because the element only exists for a fraction of a second after it is created and more evidence is needed. This new element is made up of 115 protons and was discovered about 10 years ago by both Russian and American scientists. The element, which is currently (but temoporarily) called ununpentium, was required to be reproduced in other labs before it would be added to the periodic table. Recently, a group of physicists from Lund University in Sweden were able to reproduce the same results producing ununpentium. The experiments that were done to confirm the 115 proton containing element also confirmed the existence of a new 113 proton element that is also not listed on the periodic table. This 113 proton element was noticed after the 115 proton element underwent alpha decay. By undergoing alpha decay, the 115 proton element emitted a particle consisting of 2 protons and 2 neutrons, leaving the 113 proton element.

In order to create the 115 proton element, calcium nuclei (20 protons) were shot into americium atoms (95 protons), essentially smashing them together. This resulted in some of the calcium and americium coming together and forming the 115 proton element, albeit very briefly. The pieces of debris from the experiment allowed researchers to deduce the existence of the new heavy element. Researchers also detected an X-ray signal during the decay that supported the existence of a 115 proton element. If the studies continue to be supported by evidence, the Russian and American scientists who first discovered the element will be given the chance to name it something other than ununpentium. Elements 117 and 118 are also in the process of being confirmed.

Image shows a model of the massive Ununpentium atom with nucleus surrounded by electrons.


1 comment:

  1. I find it absolutely fascinating how many substances can be created in a lab...but as you said, they aren't very stable; I wonder if there is a way to improve upon this to create a substance that can be used for practical purposes? And will humans ever hit a limit of how many protons can be forced together to make new elements?