Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Ununseptium...element #117

"Scientists Confirm The Existence Of Element 117"


Alex Knapp

May 3rd, 2014


The official Periodic Table of the Elements is one step closer to adding element 117 to its ranks. That’s thanks to an international team of scientists that was able to successfully create several atoms of element 117, which is currently known as Ununseptium until it’s given an official name.

The paper for this experiment has been published in Physical Review Letters.

Element 117 was first created in a joint collaboration between American and Russian scientists back in 2010. However, before an element can be officially added to the Periodic Table of Elements, its discovery must be independently confirmed.

Ununseptium, like many superheavy elements near the end of the periodic table, is incredibly unstable, existing only for fractions of a second before decaying into other elements. In fact, scientists didn’t actually observe any atoms of element 117 – its existence was confirmed by its decay. Indeed, the elements that 117 decays to themselves decay. This can be of unique interest to scientists, though, who in the process of trying to discover element 117 also discovered two of its decay products – isotopes of elements 103 and 105 – that are among the most stable superheavy isotopes yet discovered.

As part of the Periodic Table, Ununseptium would be considered a Group VII element, putting it in the same family as flourine, bromine and chlorine.

To produce element 117, the scientists started with atoms of Berkelium (atomic number 97), and bombarded them with Calcium ions at high speeds. The result was a fusion of the calcium ions and the Berkelium to produce Ununseptium, which then quickly decayed into elements 115 and 113, as observed by the previous Russian-American team.

“This is an important scientific result and a compelling example of international cooperation in science, advancing superheavy element research by leveraging the special capabilities of national laboratories in Germany and the U.S.,” Oak Ridge National Laboratory Director Thom Mason said in a statement.

The next step for element 117 to be added to the periodic table is for the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) to examine the new data and determine whether it provides sufficient evidence to say that element 117 has been discovered. IUPAC will then determine which institution will be able to name the new element.

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