Periodic table moves closer to completion – if element 113 has been discovered as expected

// September 28th, 2012 // General Science News

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Periodic table of elements

After nine years of searching, a group of Japanese researchers may have finally done it. Researchers in Japan have reported that they have created an atom of element 113, an element with 113 protons and 165 neutrons in its nucleus. The atom was created by a team operating out of RIKEN’s Nishina Center for Accelerator-based Science in Saitama, near Tokyo, by bombarding a bismuth target with a stream of zinc ions in an effort to fuse the nuclei of these elements to form the new element. Now RIKEN is waiting to see if their discovery is approved to be officially added to the periodic table.

Superheavy elements in this area of the periodic table are notoriously difficult to identify because of their short lifespan. Element 113’s atom decays within milliseconds. Since researchers cannot observe the atom for identification purposes, they have to rely on the timings and energies of the decay products instead. Once the observations are complete, they must be approved by an independent committee of experts drawn from the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) and the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP) before they are added to the periodic table. The name of the new element, proposed by the RIKEN group that discovered it, will likely be “japonium” (hey, don’t knock it – we have americium already).

The elusive atom may have been discovered several years earlier. A Russian team was bombarding a target of americium (how appropriate) with calcium in an effort to create element 115. When 115 fell apart, it was thought to have produced element 113 along the way. The Russians could not conclusively prove their find though.

Elements 112, 114, and 116 have already claimed spots on the periodic table. 113 and 115 are likely coming soon. The Japanese group has indicated they will move on to look for elements 119 and 120 – when will it ever end…

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