Superheavy element 117 confirmed

May 02, 2014
Credit: Brian Cantoni, flickr.

(Phys.org) —The stage is set for a new, super-heavy element to be added to the periodic table following research published in the latest Physics Review Letters. Led by researchers at Germany's GSI laboratory, the team created atoms of element 117, matching the heaviest atoms ever observed, which are 40 per cent heavier than an atom of lead.

The of the elements is to get crowded towards its heaviest members. Evidence for the artificial creation of element 117 has recently been obtained at the GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research, an accelerator laboratory located in Darm-stadt, Germany.

The experiment was performed by an international team of chemists and physicists headed by Prof. Christoph Düllmann, who holds positions at GSI, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU), and the Helmholtz Institute Mainz (HIM). The team included 72 scientists and engineers from 16 institutions in Australia, Finland, Germany, India, Japan, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Elements beyond atomic number 104 are referred to as . The most long-lived ones are expected to be situated on a so-called 'island of stability', where nuclei with extremely long half-lives should be found. Although superheavy elements have not been found in nature, they can be produced by accelerating beams of nuclei and shooting them at the heaviest possible target nuclei. Fusion of two nuclei – a very rare event – occasionally produces a superheavy element. Those currently accessible generally only exist for a short time. Initial reports about the discovery of an element with atomic number 117 were released in 2010 from a Russia-U.S. collaboration working at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna, Russia.

The blue glow of Cherenkov radiation is visible in the reactor pool at ORNL's High Flux Isotope Reactor (HFIR) during a fuel change-out. Intense irradiation at HFIR, followed by chemical separation and purification, produced the necessary berkelium target material for the element 117 experiment. Credit: Oak Ridge National Laboratory

In a powerful example of international collaboration, this new measurement required close coordination between the accelerator and detection capabilities at GSI in Germany and the unique actinide isotope production and separation facilities at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in the U.S. The special berkelium target material, essential for the synthesis of element 117, was produced over an 18-month-long campaign. This required intense neutron irradiation at ORNL's High Flux Isotope Reactor, followed by chemical separation and purification at ORNL's Radiochemical Engineering Development Center. Approximately 13 milligrams of the highly-purified isotope Bk-249, which itself decays with a half-life of only 330 days, were then shipped to Mainz University. There, the facilities and expertise are available to transform the exotic radioisotope into a target, able to withstand the high-power calcium-ion beams from the GSI accelerator. Atoms of element 117 were separated from huge numbers of other nuclear reaction products in the TransActinide Separator and Chemistry Apparatus (TASCA) and were identified through their radioactive decay. These measured chains of alpha-decays produced isotopes of lighter elements with atomic numbers 115 to 103, whose registration added to the proof for the observation of element 117.

A view into the 120-meter long linear accelerator at GSI, which accelerated the calcium-ions used to produce element 117. Credit: Universitaet Mainz

In the decay chains, both a previously unknown alpha-decay pathway in Db-270 (dubnium – element 105) and the new isotope Lr-266 (lawrencium – element 103) were identified. With half-lives of about one hour and about 11 hours, respectively, they are among the longest-lived superheavy isotopes known to date. As unwanted background events are present in all superheavy element experiments, the longer-lived an isotope is, the harder is its reliable identification. The present experiment, for which TASCA was significantly upgraded to better separate unwanted background products and thus to allow more sensitive identification of superheavy nuclei, proved that their reliable identification is now possible.

"This is of paramount importance as even longer-lived isotopes are predicted to exist in a region of enhanced nuclear stability", explains Christoph Düllmann.

Prof. Horst Stöcker, Scientific Director of GSI, adds: "The successful experiments on element 117 are an important step on the path to the production and detection of ele-ments situated on the 'island of stability' of superheavy elements."

"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.," said ORNL Director Thom Mason.

Element 117 is yet to be named: a committee comprising members of the International Unions of Pure and Applied Physics and Chemistry will review these new findings, along with the original ones, and decide whether further experiments are needed before acknowledging the 's discovery. Only after such final acceptance, a name may be proposed by the discoverers.

Explore further: The science of charismatic voices

More information: Paper: Phys. Rev. Lett. 112, 172501 – Published 1 May 2014, journals.aps.org/prl/abstract/… ysRevLett.112.172501

www.superheavies.de/

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User comments : 33

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voduyan1
1.6 / 5 (9) May 02, 2014
Can somebody tell me why this discovery is important?
t_garr
1 / 5 (1) May 02, 2014
.... I can nearly see ORNL from my back yard!
Modernmystic
4.2 / 5 (11) May 02, 2014
Can somebody tell me why this discovery is important?


New materials always open up doors to things we didn't think we could do. It will help us probe the "island of stability". The practical application of super heavy elements are virtually limitless. It's like winning a billion dollar lottery and asking why it's important. The money itself can't tell you what to do with it, but it expands your capability TO DO whatever you want.
JerH
4.3 / 5 (8) May 02, 2014
Can somebody tell me why this discovery is important?

Learning how fusion of two nuclei occurs, and in their quest for the "island of stability" on these super-heavy elements will directly co-relate to safely caring for our national nuclear stockpile and reactors.
Steve 200mph Cruiz
4.5 / 5 (8) May 02, 2014
"Can somebody tell me why this discovery is important?"
Because a better understanding of the atomic nucleus leads to better medicine, energy production, new materials with novel properties, lower costs to harness such benefits, etc.
Learning something new helps everyone, it's the people who don't want you to learn something that you have to watch out for.
Returners
1.8 / 5 (5) May 02, 2014
Can somebody tell me why this discovery is important?


We aren't much closer to making cost-effective use of super-heavy isotopes than we are to harnessing vacuum energy or whatever.

Maybe in some distant future when someone figures out how to make more cost-effective colliders, it will matter.

Also, a physicists definition of "stable" isn't necessarily consistent with what an engineer would view as "stable".

At this point, particles are kind of like "legos". You can throw a bunch of them in a big pile and get something that is technically "new", but that by itself doesn't mean it does anything "useful".
someone11235813
2.3 / 5 (3) May 02, 2014
It's not really an 'artificial' element, it's just a not naturally occurring element on Earth. I'm pretty sure that it would naturally be formed during a supernova detonation. Before Helium was discovered on Earth it was not considered artificial.
Mimath224
5 / 5 (1) May 02, 2014
Anyone got an idea of what the theoretical limit is or perhaps where I might read the info? Wiki quotes 117 is Ununseptium and 118 is Ununoctium although these numbers are 'place holders' for later naming. 118 apparently from year 2002 but it seems that it is unconfirmed because 118 is nameless at present...or does someone know different?
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (4) May 03, 2014
Neutron stars are pretty much one giant atomic nucleus. The theoretical limit would then be the chandrasekar limit (i.e. where it collapses into a black hole).
Which indicates that at some (enormous) atomic number we reach total stability again, because in addition to nuclear forces holding atoms together (and electrostatic forces trying to drive it apart) we get gravity thrown into the mix to an appreciable amount.

The as yet nameless atoms are awaiting confirmation because the rule is (I think) that at least two separate labs must have produced them.
Mimath224
5 / 5 (1) May 03, 2014
@antialias_physorg, Ha good point, yes I suppose that is correct although a neutron star is kind of approaching it from the other direction. I was rather thinking in terms of our present limitations here on Earth. I also notice that futher 'vacant' spots have been reserved too so it would seem that this type of research will continue. Thanks for the reply anyway.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.8 / 5 (5) May 03, 2014
aren't much closer to making cost-effective use of super-heavy isotopes than we are to harnessing vacuum energy or whatever
Of course we are Lrrrkrr. We are actually making them now. This is a very important step in studying them yes?

As to the name of element 117 why not jamesium?

"17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." James1:17

-an allusion to both the nature of elements and to the island of stability. But then these artificial elements do decay don't they? Is this because they are man-made?
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (2) May 03, 2014
I was rather thinking in terms of our present limitations here on Earth.

Our present limitation would be what kinds of atomic nuclei we have to shoot at one another. Although one could envision three or more nuclei being shot onto one point this gets enormously tricky.

Or one could shoot two of the 'new', heavy nuceli together to produce even heavier ones...but that is even more tricky as producing these nuclei is fantastically rare and they decay very fast. So there's no real practical way to handle them to do anything with them while they are around.
Captain Stumpy
2.3 / 5 (3) May 03, 2014
Also, a physicists definition of "stable" isn't necessarily consistent with what an engineer would view as "stable".
@Returners
please elaborate
Lex Talonis
1 / 5 (4) May 04, 2014
It's really important, so the Americans can make new bombs to kill more people around the world.

Now after the Americans kill everyone in the labs....

The testing will commence.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (3) May 04, 2014
With these supreheavy atoms we're still talking about short half lives. Even when we get to 'islands of stability' which are only relatively stable compared to atoms with slightly lower mass numbers.

And, of course, these things are being created at rate of one atom at a time. To get any amount with which to do anything would be near impossible (because you'd have to create them faster that they decay - which gets exponentially harder the more you want)
Mimath224
5 / 5 (4) May 04, 2014
@antialias_physorg, once again thanks for your reply above.
@Lex Talonis you trying to start a war here? No need for that kind of post. Keep it scientific or 'soap box' elsewhere

Lex Talonis
1 / 5 (5) May 04, 2014
@Mimath224

Oh noo... it's important to understand that the Americans have killed 55 million since ww2, by all sorts of means, so while many got a shitty deal in the concentration camps, under Hitler, really 6 million is nothing in comparison to the amount that the Americans have wiped out.

So everything that can be made into a weapon of mass destruction, by all their nice scientific types, is a good thing to support right?

Unless of course, your guilty of un-American activities yourself.
Mimath224
5 / 5 (4) May 04, 2014
@Lex Talonis, I was right, you are trying to start a war here! This is not the place to preach politics and who is guilty of this & that. You got a message? Give it to those who have the power to act on your words...if you can find anyone that is. Every scientific discovery/venture might have a potential military application, and not only bu the USA, so why not wait until such an article is posted and you can legitimately argue your point(s).
I come here to learn about the scientific realm and if I was to voice my politics I will go elsewhere...certainly not you.
Captain Stumpy
3.3 / 5 (4) May 04, 2014
it's important to understand that the Americans have killed 55 million since ww2
@lex
please provide your source for this information. if it is a blog or not a legitimate source, then please provide a legitimate source and numbers
So everything that can be made into a weapon of mass destruction, by all their nice scientific types, is a good thing to support right?
conjecture without evidence. you can kill a person with a pen too, but that does not mean you can call it a weapon of mass destruction. leave politics to political websites and try to keep to the science
Unless of course, your guilty of un-American activities yourself
all people, American or otherwise are guilty of this, so it is irrelevant
you are TROLLING
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (3) May 05, 2014
Oh noo... it's important to understand that the Americans have killed 55 million since ww2

However it's not relevant to the article in any way. So post it somehwere else where it is relevant. Otherwise it's trolling (trolling does not mean that the information one provides is false. It just means that it's not relevant and meant to elicit a response off topic/derail a thread).

So everything that can be made into a weapon of mass destruction, by all their nice scientific types, is a good thing to support right?

Science. Application. Learn to distinguish the two.

The work in the article is important because it allows us to understand the fundamental forces at work better (i.e. check and refine our models). The models are applicable to all kinds of nuclear processes - not just heavy elements. This knowledge is important for every technology where radiation is used (which includes military, but also medical and material sciences)
Lex Talonis
1 / 5 (4) May 05, 2014
Look up the info yourself - you lazy shits.

Stupid Merkens.
kelman66
4 / 5 (1) May 05, 2014
Neutron stars are pretty much one giant atomic nucleus. The theoretical limit would then be the chandrasekar limit (i.e. where it collapses into a black hole).
Which indicates that at some (enormous) atomic number we reach total stability again, because in addition to nuclear forces holding atoms together (and electrostatic forces trying to drive it apart) we get gravity thrown into the mix to an appreciable amount.

The as yet nameless atoms are awaiting confirmation because the rule is (I think) that at least two separate labs must have produced them.

What you would really need to do that would be a proton star, wouldnt it? :)
no fate
3.7 / 5 (3) May 05, 2014
Also, a physicists definition of "stable" isn't necessarily consistent with what an engineer would view as "stable".
@Returners
please elaborate


Stable for a physicist means "lasts long enough to measure", for an engineer it means lasts long enough to use.

Sorry, returners didn't appear to have...returned.
antialias_physorg
not rated yet May 06, 2014
What you would really need to do that would be a proton star, wouldnt it?

Neutron stars come in layers. The force required to push electrons into neutrons can be enough at depth (though depth is a very relative term, here - as neutron stars aren't very big). In the surface layers it's quite possible that protons/electrons still exist as separate entities. Though not in terms of bound atomic nuclei with orbiting electrons. Neutron stars are too hot. It's effectively all ionized.
At the center things get a bit less 'atom-like' with a potential quark gluon plasma. This makes giving a neutron star an 'atomic number' an iffy proposition at best.
Captain Stumpy
3.5 / 5 (2) May 06, 2014
Stable for a physicist means "lasts long enough to measure", for an engineer it means lasts long enough to use.
Sorry, returners didn't appear to have...returned.
@no fate
thanks for the answer
I am a bit confused. is there a reference you can provide for that. I am not finding anything.
I would have thought that something like that is spelled out in some reference material...not being facetious
TIA
Mimath224
5 / 5 (1) May 06, 2014
@Captain Stumpy, I think we may be at one those english words with several meanings. Basically, Latin stabilis meant something firm, enduring and the like. However, as I understood itthe word 'stabile', which is prounced the same as 'stable', is the spelling for Physics, Chemistry etc and means resistant to change. But to be honest, I have never seen 'stabile' used. The word 'stable' comes from Latin also, stabulum and I think was applied to buildings etc. Not a lot oh help I grant you.
Mimath224
5 / 5 (1) May 06, 2014
@Captain Stumpy (2nd try at posting may produce duplicate)
Latin Stabilis meant lasting, enduring etc and is the spelling we use when we say 'stablizing', 'stabilized' etc and as I understood it years ago 'stabile' (pronounced 'stable') was to be used in the sciences but I have never seen it used.
'stable' came from Latin 'stabulum' and had meanings for buildings etc.
Captain Stumpy
5 / 5 (1) May 06, 2014
I think we may be at one those english words with several meanings
I should have clarified, sorry.
@No fate, returners, mimath224, Dr.Toad, etc:
here is what I am specifically looking for:
for any field, there tends to be a lexicon that is used by the field. such as: a firefighter does not refer to fire hydrants specifically as fire hydrants all the time. They also use the term "plug" etc
I am looking for a link to a source describing the different lexicon's of the engineer and physicist. something that normally is taught as you go along, I am sure, but there has to be a reference somewhere. Some resource for reference by the newbie's

otherwise people tend to want to go with the standard English definition of "stable".

sorry if (some) consider this a threat... I am just wanting to find a source for further reference.
no fate
3 / 5 (2) May 06, 2014
Well Stump, I don't have any criteria that are set in stone or references of the same "stability". My reason for wording it the way I did was that I have seen a fraction of a femptosecond referred to as stable, yet I have personally referred to several things as unstable if a flaw was going to cause them to cease functioning...eventually. So stable for a measurement isn't the same as stable for continued function, yet both are equally correct in the context in which they are used.
Captain Stumpy
5 / 5 (1) May 07, 2014
So stable for a measurement isn't the same as stable for continued function, yet both are equally correct in the context in which they are used.
@no fate
and this is my dilemma as well.
I've seen/heard the word stable used in several ways in several context's but I have not found a well described meaning in a lexicon stating a set of parameters for a hard, fast rule of thumb nor for a definition.

if anyone finds a set of references that would help, I would love to see them. I am going over measurements here http://ocw.mit.edu/index.htm again and if anyone else finds some reference material about engineering or that shows a difference, I would appreciate a posting here or in another thread that I am posting in so I can read it.

Thanks in advance
bluehigh
1 / 5 (1) May 07, 2014
It's where horses live. Unstable is where horses don't live.
Mimath224
5 / 5 (2) May 08, 2014
@Captain Stumpy perhaps start with equilibrium might help. When considering energy curves there is neutral eqilibrium, unstable and stable equilibrium. A marble on a horizontal table top is the first, a marble balanced on a ball is the second and a marble placed at the bottom of a hemisphere is the third. This may take you on to Catastrohe Theory which as you probably know, can be used in human behaviour as well as maths and physics.
MaxwellsDemon
1 / 5 (1) May 10, 2014
@antialias_physorg
With these supreheavy atoms we're still talking about short half lives. Even when we get to 'islands of stability' which are only relatively stable compared to atoms with slightly lower mass numbers.

There are several competing models of nuclear binding energy that make a wide variety of predictions regarding the presumed island of stability, and we have no experimental data in that region yet, so it's possible albeit unlikely that one or more superheavy isotopes will have enigmatic longevity. Unfortunately it seems that none of the existing facilities can create the necessary neutron-rich collisions that we need to reach the island, and I haven't heard of a solid plan to build one.

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