Jun
28
2009

The periodic table welcomes a new element with open arms

Want to hear the most exciting chemistry news for the month of June?? Yes…? All right then.

A few weeks ago, the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (or IUPAC if you’re feelin’ lazy) officially recognized the element 112, discovered at the GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung, as the newest element to be added to the periodic table. That’s right kids, the periodic table is gettin’ a makeover.

The new element is approximately 277 times heavier than Hydrogen, making it the heaviest element to hit the periodic table since roentgenium (which coincidentally, was also discovered by GSI). It’s been a long road for 112. Way back in 1996, Professor Sigurd Hoffman and a team of 21 scientists at GSI created it with an accelerator. Six years later, they were able to produce another atom. Finally confirming the discovery, accelerator experiments at the Japanese RIKEN produce more atoms of 112.

How does an accelerator make an atom, you ask? Well, zinc ions are fired towards a lead target with the help of a 120-meter long particle accelerator. Once they hit, the zinc and lead nuclei merge in a nuclear fusion to form the nucleus of a new element.

Cool.The accelerator: The target wheel equipped with lead waiting to be irradiated with zinc ions
The accelerator: The target wheel equipped with lead waiting to be irradiated with zinc ionsCourtesy A. Zschau, GSI

And now for the fun part. Over the next few weeks, the scientists from the discovery team will deliberate on the name of element 112. After its been submitted to IUPAC, it will be assessed and then officially be crowned the newest member of the periodic team.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

shaunalynn10's picture

they're going to be making new elements forever

posted on Tue, 06/30/2009 - 4:26pm

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