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Super-Heavy Element 117 to be Added to the Periodic Table

May 02, 2014 04:00 AM EDT
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An international team of researchers has created atoms of element 117. The new heavy element will most likely be added in the period table.

The research included scientists from The Australian National University.

"Making element 117 is at the absolute boundary of what is possible right now," says Professor David Hinde, Director of the Heavy Ion Accelerator Facility operated by the ANU Nuclear Physics Department, according to a news release. "That's why it's a triumph to create and identify even a few of these atoms."

The period table is a tabular arrangement of elements based on the number of protons, electronic shell configuration and recurring chemical properties. The current table has 92 naturally occurring elements; from hydrogen with one proton to uranium with 92. Elements with higher number of protons are created artificially.

Recently, Lund University researchers had confirmed the existence of element 115.

 The new element has 117 protons and is around 40 percent heavier than an atom of lead. The super-heavy atom isn't found in nature and is created by fusing nuclei of other heavy atoms.

The present research was conducted at the German accelerator laboratory GSI. Scientists bombarded an isotope of berkelium-249 (97 protons) with over 1019 (or ten billion billion) of calcium-48 nuclei that have 20 protons and 28 neutrons. Both the elements used in research are extremely rare.

Scientists identified four atoms of element 117 using the characteristic radioactive decay.

A team of Russian researchers had first created the new element in 2010.

The IUPAC (International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry) doesn't accept a new element until an independent research body supports the discovery, according to abc.net.au. IUPAC was formed in the year 1919 and is a world authority in setting standards for chemical nomenclature and terminology.

Researchers are hopeful that the new element will be included in the period table.

"We've managed to find four atoms of the same element 117, that hopefully will be sufficient to allow it to be officially recognised and then named," says co-author Professor David Hinde, at the Australian National University.

Russians have already created element 118. "The big question is, how can we create elements 119 and 120?," Hinde said in a news release.

The study paper is published in the journal Physics Review Letters. 

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