If you thought the Periodic Table is a definitive catalog of all elements, think again. That’s because scientists have found compelling evidence of the existence of element 117, a superheavy element that is due to be added to the Periodic Table soon.
The element has a temporary name of ununseptium, which translates as one (un) one (un) seven (sept) or 117, its atomic number.
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The original discovery of element 117, called so because of its atomic number of 117, was made by US and Russian scientists back in 2010. However, the discovery needed to be substantiated by other independent sources before it could be confirmed.
Now, an international team of scientists at GSI Helmholtz Center for Heavy Ion Research in Germany have confirmed the find. Given that element 117 is a superheavy element, providing proof for its existence is an awfully hard job. Typically, scientists attempt to catch a glimpse of such a heavy element by smashing together the atoms of two existing elements.
In the case of element 117, atoms of Berkelium were smashed against Calcium ions. Element 117 was one of the by-products of the ensuing reaction. But then, heavier elements are also highly unstable, meaning that they decay nearly instantly into other elements. Element 117, for instance, decayed into elements 115 and 113 within no time of its creation.
Although all currently known heavy elements (elements with atomic number more than 104) are highly unstable, scientists believe that soon they will find one or more superheavy elements which will be stable. This is referred to as the hypothetical ‘island of stability.’
According to Professor Horst Stocker of GSI, “The successful experiments on element 117 are an important step on the path to the production and detection of elements situated on the “island of stability” of superheavy elements.”
While GSI has confirmed the existence of element 117, International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) has to green signal the findings before element 117 gets a name of its own and makes its way into the Periodic Table.
Source: American Physics Society