The seventh row of the periodic table of elements has finally been completed, thanks to a group of Japanese, Russian and American researchers. The new substances discovered still have no official names and are presently known as elements 113, 115, 117 and 118.
Element 113 was discovered by Japanese research institution RIKEN via a team led by Kosuke Morita. The element is the first contribution of Asians in the world-renowned periodic table.
The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) and the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP) announced on Dec. 30, 2015 that RIKEN's Nishina Center for Accelerator-Based Science should be given recognition for the discovery of element 113. Morita received the official letter on Dec. 31, 2015.
How Element 113 Was Discovered
Morita and his colleagues first embarked on a mission to discover new synthetic superheavy elements in the late years of the 1980s. They used the institution's Linear Accelerator Facility and the GARIS ion separator to perform their work.
In September 2003, the quest to find element 113 began. Morita's group infused zinc ions to a thin layer of the chemical element bismuth. The ions travelled at 10 percent of the speed of light. In theory, the fusion should have formed an atom of element 113.
The road to forming the element was bumpy, as the researchers encountered a total of three events before they finally achieved what they had been aiming for.
The first event happened in July 2004 when the research team observed that the fusion of two atomic nuclei resulted in the creation of element 113's nucleus.
Then in April 2005, they saw further demonstrations on atom decays but were not yet able to determine if the decays had happened via spontaneous fission or via alpha chain. This provided grounds for stronger claims for the team, but there was still no evidence of element 113's existence.
"For over seven years, we continued to search for data conclusively identifying element 113, but we just never saw another event," says Morita. He said, however, that he was not yet ready to give up. He believed that one day, luck would come to their group if they persevered.
Finally, the third event that led to the discovery came in August 2012 when Morita's group was able to identify that the atom decay in element 105 (dubnium-262) occurred through alpha chain instead of spontaneous fission. The group found that the source of the decay chain was element 113.
Future Plans For The Discovery
In the periodic table, element 113 is situated between copernicium and flevorium. The provisional name for the element is ununtrium, but RIKEN mentioned earlier that it is considering "japonium" to be its final, official name.
Morita said he plans to dedicate this year to thinking of a name for the element, as the IUPAC has given his group the privilege to propose an official name for it.
Aside from coming up with a name, Morita hopes to take his group's discovery to the next level. He said his team is now looking at exploring the uncharted territory of elements 119 and beyond. They plan to study the element in the eighth and ninth rows, and even the islands of stability.
Other New Elements
IUPAC also credits the discovery of elements 115, 117 and 118 with the collaboration of Russian and American scientists.
For elements 115 and 117, the naming right was bestowed upon the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna, Russia, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. Except for Oak Ridge, the same institutions were given the right to name element 118.
Photo: Matthew Frederickson | Flickr