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New Element ‘Ununpentium’ May Soon Join Periodic Table

August 28, 2013
Image Credit: Thinkstock.com

Michael Harper for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online

The periodic table of the elements may soon get a new member. A team of Swedish researchers at Lund University have proven the existence of element 115, temporarily dubbed “ununpentium.” The synthesized element was first discovered by a team of American and Russian scientists who claim they made the element in their lab in 2004.

The Lund team says that they have confirmed the element’s existence, but that it is still difficult to make it last longer than a moment. The unstable element 115 is called into existence when americum’s 95 protons are blasted with calcium’s 20 protons. For brief milliseconds, ununpentium is created, weighing in at a super-heavy 115 protons. However, the element then quickly breaks down into other known and categorized elements.

Measuring an element which disappears almost instantly can be a tricky task, so the Swedish scientists measured the new element by observing the photons that were released by the atoms as they decayed and split away.

Before ununpentium can join the periodic table of elements, however, it must be approved by the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP) and the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC). The Lund team has published their evidence of the element in a paper in the journal Physical Review Letters.

The Russian-American team applied to the IUPAP and IUPAC after they had fabricated the element in their labs, but their request to submit a new element was denied when the joint group ruled that they had “not met the criteria for discovery,” reported Forbes.

“This was a very successful experiment and is one of the most important in the field in recent years,” explained Dirk Rudolph, the lead researcher and the professor at Lund’s atomic physics division. In an email to the Christian Science Monitor, professor Rudolph said his team’s findings weren’t all that different from the 2004 experiments.

“We observed 30 (atoms) in our three-week-long experiment,” said Rudolph. The Russian team observed 37 atoms in their experiments, but were only able to prove a discovery of the element, not prove its existence.

Given their atomic instability, super-heavy elements such as ununpentium often aren’t long for this earth. As such, any future discovery may be just as difficult to categorize when newer elements are synthesized in labs. The discovery of other new heavy elements seems likely as scientists are keen on challenging the boundaries of the periodic table.

These elements are seen as the vehicle to what scientists call the “island of stability,” or a group of elements which only last for a few moments before breaking up into smaller, well-known elements. Scientists believe this island will act as a gateway to other discoveries of elements and possibly open up new understanding into dark energy and dark matter.

Ununpentium’s elemental neighbors, flerovium (114) and livermorium (116) also exist in this island and were added to the periodic table in 2011. Like element 115, flerovium and livermorium each had long journeys before they reached official recognition. Both elements were registered more than a decade after they had been discovered, and they were each named after the labs in which they were first created. Should the IUPAP and IUPAC approve professor Rudolph’s work, the Russian-American team will be given the opportunity to choose an official name for the new element.


Source: Michael Harper for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online



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