Super-heavy element 117 will soon take its place in the periodic table.
Science students around the world will soon have a new member of the periodic table of elements to memorize: super-heavy element 117, dubbed ununseptium. The element is 40 percent heavier than lead.
A multinational group of scientists at the GSI Helmholz Center for Heavy Ion Research, a particle accelerator located in Darmstadt, Germany, and a team of physicists and chemists from Australian National University, have announced that they have created and observed several atoms of element 117– which is so named because each individual atom has 117 protons in its nucleus. Like other super-heavy elements–all elements with more than 104 protons in the nuclei–the element 117 is not found in nature and can only be created in a laboratory. The findings are published in the May 1 issue of the journal Physical Review Letters,.
To find out just how large an atom can be, researchers have worked at creating heavier and heavier elements, according to co-author Christoph Düllman, a professor at the Institute for Nuclear Chemistry at the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz in Germany.
“There are predictions that super-heavy elements should exist which are very long-lived,” Düllmann told Live Science. “It is interesting to find out if half-lives become long again for very heavy elements, especially if very neutron-rich species are made.”
Ordinarily, researchers say, the more protons and neutrons are stuffed into an atomic nucleus, the more unstable the atom becomes. Super-heavy elements made in the laboratory last only microseconds before decaying. Nevertheless, scientists theorize that an ‘island of stability’ exists where super-heavy elements do not decay but become stable. They say such elements could have many practical uses.
Element 117 may get a catchier, more user-friendly name when it is officially recognized by the international panel of scientists that protects and defends the integrity of the periodic table, the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry.