Confirmation: Element 115

The thing about new elements these days is they don’t exist in nature. They’re a product of human research. A ‘new’ element, dubbed ununpentium with the symbol Uup, was first “discovered” (read: created) in 2003 by bombarding a nucleus of americium-243 with ions driven from calcium-48. This created an element with the atomic weight of 288. It doesn’t stick around, with a half-life of about 200 milliseconds.

Now it’s 2013 and in the true fashion of science, two of the few research facilities capable of reproducing the element 115 have finally chimed in to confirm the new element. The original creation was performed by the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna (Russia) and at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (California, USA). The recently announced confirmations were by Lund University (Sweden) and the Darmstadt research facility (Germany). With this confirmation, ununpentium is ready for ‘official’ confirmation by the IUPAC/IUPAP Joint Working Party and eventually a final name.

The superheavy artificial elements are exotic, to say the least. For the most part, their isotopes are unstable – meaning they are gone in the blink of an eye – so they will have no ‘practical’ application. However, physicists continue to learn about the behavior of elements and their particles through creating these new elements and their isotopes. Ununpentium will, someday, have a stable isotope, probably Uup-299, but at the moment, the technology to add 184 neutrons (the ‘magic’ closed-shell number) doesn’t exist.

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