Physicists use element 115 to highlight a way for taking new superheavy elements' fingerprints

August 30, 2013
GSI linear accelerator. Credit: G. Otto, GSI Helmholtz Center for Heavy Ion Research

An international team of researchers presents fresh evidence that confirms the existence of the superheavy chemical element 115. The experiment was conducted at the GSI Helmholtz Center for Heavy Ion Research, an accelerator laboratory located in Darmstadt. Under the lead of physicists from Lund University in Sweden, the group, which included researchers from Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) and the Helmholtz Institute Mainz (HIM), was able to present a way to directly identify new superheavy elements. Elements beyond atomic number 104 are referred to as superheavy elements. They are produced at accelerator laboratories and generally decay after a short time. Initial reports about the discovery of an element with atomic number 115 were released from a research center in Russia in 2004. The then presented indirect evidence for the new element, however, was insufficient for an official discovery.

For the new experiment, scientists at the Institute of Nuclear Chemistry at Mainz University took a sample of the exotic element americium. They deposited an americium layer on a thin foil, which was subsequently bombarded with at the GSI facility. For the first time, the exploitation of a new detector system allowed registering photons along with the alpha-decay of the new element and its daughter products. Measured photon energies correspond to those expected for X-rays from these products and thus serve as the element's fingerprint.

"This can be regarded as one of the most important experiments in the field in recent years, because at last it is clear that even the heaviest ' fingerprints can be taken", agreed Professor Dirk Rudolph from Lund University in Sweden and Professor Christoph Düllmann, professor at Mainz University and leading scientist at GSI Darmstadt and HIM. "The result gives high confidence to previous reports. It also lays the basis for future measurements of this kind."

The element 115 is yet to be named: a committee comprising members of the international unions of pure and applied physics and chemistry will review the new findings and decide whether further experiments are needed to acknowledge the discovery of the element. Only after such final acceptance, a name may be proposed by the discoverers.

TransActinide Separator and Chemistry Apparatus (TASCA). Credit: G. Otto, GSI Helmholtz Center for Heavy Ion Research

Besides the X-ray events, the researchers have also obtained data giving them a deeper insight into the structure and properties of the heaviest currently known atomic nuclei. This paves the way towards improved predictions for properties of nuclei beyond the border of current knowledge.

Detection system for alpha particles and photons. Credit: University Lund, Sweden

The new findings will soon be presented in the scientific journal The Physical Review Letters.

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1 / 5 (1) Aug 30, 2013
As I understand, naming convention is already specified.
It would be Ununpentium
not rated yet Aug 30, 2013
that is a temporary name until it is actually created and confirmed and at that point the team that make the element gets to name it. think of Ununpentium as a place holder. likewise Ununsexium.. Ununseptium, Ununoctium...
5 / 5 (2) Aug 30, 2013
For anyone in the field, does this help us any with understanding the "island of stability"? Are there any obvious immediate practical applications or possibly game changing theoretical shake up implied by this discovery?
1 / 5 (2) Aug 30, 2013
For the moment there is not much here in terms of practical applications. The halflife of this element is measured in milliseconds, we only know it was there because of decay products, and the entire worldwide supply of this element at it's peak levels is probably a few dozen atoms. Sadly, not real useful stuff other than for expanding our understanding of chemistry.

Scientists in heavy element research have a pretty good idea what characteristics will place an element in the island of stability, though it's really more of an archipelago. Additional confirmed data points like this one will of course always shed more light.
2 / 5 (4) Aug 30, 2013
I guess this proves Bob Lazar's stories about a stable element 115 powering UFO's at area 51 aren't true. Wasn't 115 in the theorized possible stable zone?
5 / 5 (1) Aug 30, 2013
The island of stabilty means half lives of minutes (maybe days) for the transuranium elements - as opposed to seconds (or milliseconds). Not real stability as we know it from everyday elements in the lower part of the periodic table.
1 / 5 (1) Aug 30, 2013
that is a temporary name until it is actually created and confirmed and at that point the team that make the element gets to name it. think of Ununpentium as a place holder. likewise Ununsexium.. Ununseptium, Ununoctium...

I understood that they used that naming convention because of the politics of Russian and American scientists competing, but I see they have proper names on them.
1 / 5 (2) Aug 31, 2013
they should call it brandonredmondium.

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