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Scientists Offer New Evidence of 115th Periodic Table Element

Update Date: Aug 28, 2013 01:02 AM EDT
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The periodic table may soon be changing after scientists offered new evidence for the existence of a still unconfirmed element with atomic number 115.

The super-heavy element has yet to be officially named, but it is temporarily called ununpentium, roughly based on the Latin and Greek words for the digits in its atomic number, 115.   

The element is highly radioactive and exists for less than a second before decaying into lighter atoms.

Researchers at Sweden's Lund University said Tuesday the finding backs up claims of a new element by scientists in the US and Russia about a decade ago that had remained unverified until now.

"This was a very successful experiment and is one of the most important in the field in recent years", said Dirk Rudolph, professor at the division of atomic physics at Lund University, who led the research.

Scientists believe that by creating heavier and heavier elements, they will find a theoretical "island of stability," an undiscovered region in the periodic table where stable super-heavy elements with as yet unimagined practical uses might exist. 

In experiments in Dubna, Russia about 10 years ago, researchers reported that they created atoms with 115 protons. Their measurements have now been confirmed in experiments at the GSI Helmholtz Center for Heavy Ion Research in Germany.

"We observed 30 in our three-week-long experiment," study researcher Dirk Rudolph, a professor of atomic physics at Lund University in Sweden, said in an email. Rudolph added that the Russian team had detected 37 atoms of element 115 in their earlier experiments.

"The results are by and large compatible," Rudolph added.

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