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Researchers Discover New Element

Japanese scientists have created a superheavy atom, potentially expanding the periodic table.

By | September 28, 2012

image: Researchers Discover New Element Wikimedia, Scott Bontz

The periodic table may have just gotten a little bigger. Physicists at the RIKEN Nishina Center for Accelerator-Based Science in Wako, Japan, claim to have produced convincing evidence that they've successfully made a new superheavy atom, element 113, by bombarding bismuth atoms with zinc in a particle accelerator. The collision resulted in an atom with 113 protons in its nucleus.

Researchers had claimed to produce such atoms previously—some periodic tables currently list element 113 as Ununtrium (Uut), a temporary name for a synthetic element with 113 protons in its nucleus—but those attempts were never considered conclusive. Not so for this attempt, according to Christoph Düllmann, nuclear chemist at the GSI nuclear research lab in Darmstadt, Germany. He told ScienceInsider that the RIKEN team makes a "very strong case" for the existence of the new element. "We clearly have to congratulate them. This has taken years and years of work."

The discovery must be verified by the international groups that serve as gate keepers for the periodic table before the Japanese team can officially name the new element.

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