May 3, 2014
Scientists are no different.
Researchers at the GSI Helmholtz Center for Heavy Ion Research, an accelerator laboratory located in Darmstadt, Germany, have created element 117, temporarily named ununseptium. It has 117 protons in its nucleus, making it the heaviest element so far discovered. If you look at a periodic table, you will notice that elements 113, 115, 117, and 118 have saved seats as they are considered “missing elements”. Luckily these German researchers found number 117 but it was not without great effort.
Uranium is the heaviest naturally-occurring element on the periodic table with a weight of 92 protons. All elements heavier than this must be created in a laboratory by performing nuclear fusion reactions . Throughout the years, researchers have created heavier and heavier elements in with hopes of finding out just how heavy atoms can be. One of the main questions they want to find out is there a limit to the number of protons that can be packed into an atomic nucleus?
So far the answer is 117. Just like all other record toppers, this will most likely spur an enthusiastic scientific competition to see who can be the first to reach 118. It’s the Great Race…for chemists.
For more information on ununseptium and the GSI particle accelerator, check out the following links: