Tuesday, October 17, 2006

New Element

Scientists in California and Russia have succeeded in making the heaviest element to date, element 118, or as it provisionally called ununoctium (Latin for "one-one-eight") or eka-radon (beneath radon on the periodic table).

They acheived the feat using a method I thoroughly approve of, brute force. They basically fired 40 billion billion atoms of calcium-48 at a target of californium-249 at such high speed that the nuclei overcame their mutual repulsion (due to the large amount of positive charge located there) and fused. In total it took 3000 hours and in that time they produced 3 atoms of 118. I don't feel that bad about asking for 100 hours of observing time any more.

The work is pretty cool, the teams aim is to search for the "island of stability" a theoretical region of the periodic table where very heavy atoms like this can be stable for macroscopic timescales. The 118 only lasted around nine ten-thousandths of a second, but heavier elements in the sland of stability are theorised to have half lives of several seconds to minutes, long enough to do chemistry with the atoms.

Here is a link to the Washingtonpost article about the discovery.

6 comments:

Heidi said...

wow, incredible !

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