Courtesy JJ GeorgesCheck it out: North Korea claims to have produced nuclear fusion. Fusion has been demonstrated in laboratory experiments, and, as I understand it, fusion can be achieved in fission-based nuclear weapons, but scientists have never been able to create it on the right scale to produce lots of cheap, controlled energy (for electrical power generation, which is sort of the ultimate goal.) Except, you know, North Korea now.
(Fusion, by the way, is all about forcing two light atoms to merge together. The atoms have to release some of their components to do this, and when those components go flying off, there's a lot of energy to be had from them. More or less.)
Some folks are pointing out that North Korea is one of the poorest countries in the world, and they can barely get their national act together in a lot of other ways, so it seems very unlikely that they've made any huge advancements towards fusion power (which has eluded scientists around the world for decades). But you never know. After all, they claim that the discovery coincided with the birthday of North Korea's "Dear Leader," Kim Jong-Il, and stranger things have happened on that day—according to official biographies, a new star appeared in the sky on the day Jong-Il was born.
la la la
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.
Courtesy 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.