By Gary Thomas
Of A New Element
Properties Of The New Element
Recent Discoveries of New
Sources and Further Reading
Evidence Of A New Element
To be able to add to the Periodic Table of elements is an honour
that only a handful of scientists have experienced, but now a research
team from Japan can join that illustrious list. Scientists at the RIKEN
Nishina Center for Accelerator-based Science, located Wako, near Tokyo,
have found the most conclusive evidence yet that they have created
element number 113 on the periodic table.
The new element has yet to be named, but Japan will claim the naming
rights if it is confirmed that they can claim the discovery. If this is
the case, it will become the first element to be named by a research
team in Asia. The element currently has the temporary name of
Ununtrium, in accordance with the systematic naming system created by
Properties Of The New
Though there has been little chance to study Ununtrium, there are
certain properties that can be determined:
- Chemical symbol Uut
- Atomic number 113
- Relative atomic mass of 284
- It will reside in Group 13, Period 7 and Block p of the periodic
- Highly radioactive, with a half-life of around 0.48s
- Currently there is no known biological role for this element
The new element 133 is a ‘superheavy element’ - The superheavy
elements are not known to occur naturally and are therefore termed
Another term for these elements is the ‘transuranium elements’ (or
transuranics). This term applies to any elements that have an atomic
number of more than 92 and hence lie past uranium in the periodic
The search for unambiguous data regarding the new element has been
hard to come by: it has taken nine years of hard work by the research
team led by Dr. Kosuke Morita.
The element was first reported in 2003 by a team led by Yuri
Oganessian and Ken Moody at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in
Dubna, Russia. The team created element 115 by the fusion of calcium-48
with americium-243 and element 113 was seen as a decay product of
It was then reported again independently in 2004, by the team at
RIKEN, from the fusion of bismuth atoms (83 protons) with zinc ions (30
protons). However, according to the Royal Society of Chemistry, these
results were not conclusive enough to be classified as a ‘discovery’ by
the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC).
This year, the same fusion experiment resulted again in the
production of ununtrium, but this time the identity of the new element
was confirmed by carefully recording a consecutive chain of 6 alpha
decays, ultimately finishing at mendelevium-254.
The following video showing the decay process in more detail.
of New Elements
Though ununtrium is an exciting breakthrough, evidence for
synthesized elements up to number 118 in the periodic table has been
found. Earlier this year, elements 114 and 116 were officially named by
IUPAC. Element 114 has been dubbed flerovium (in honour of the Flerov
Laboratory, Russia) and element 116 is called livermorium (in honour of
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, USA).
Elements 115 and 117 have also been created, but as with Ununtrium,
the evidence for these has not been officially reviewed yet. The next
challenge for scientists is to look at elements beyond 119.
These discoveries are achieved through painstaking work by using
nuclear fusion or neutron absorption and, as with the case Ununtrium,
can take years to confirm.
Why is so much effort put into discovering these ‘artificial’
elements beyond uranium, apart from pure scientific curiosity?
According to Professor Martyn Poliakoff (University of Nottingham),
part of the reason may be that there have been predictions of ‘islands
of stability’ at high atomic numbers. Although in general heavier
elements have shorter half-lives, some may have a surprisingly long
half-life. So scientists are working systematically through the
elements to see if any of these are anomalously stable. If these
islands of stability are found they could have practical scientific
applications. Though none of the elements so far have the required
half-life to be stable enough, they are nonetheless important
Sources and Further