New Element 115, Ununpentium, May Join Periodic Table

08/27/2013 03:06 pm ET
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The periodic table of the elements has grown ever since the first version was published by Dmitri Mendeleev in 1869. And now scientists in Sweden suggest it's time to add yet another element to the table.

New research confirms the existence of a super-heavy, radioactive element with atomic number 115. Its temporary name is ununpentium (Uup), as the element has yet to be named formally. The research was conducted at the GSI accelerator facility near Darmstadt, Germany, where scientists are known for having discovered six other elements since the early 1980s.

"This was a very successful experiment and is one of the most important in the field in recent years," lead researcher Dr. Dirk Rudolph, physics professor at the University of Lund in Sweden, said in a written statement.

Evidence for element 115 was first discovered by Russian scientists in 2004. But additional research now has confirmed that the element's atomic number -- the number of protons in the nucleus of one atom of the substance -- is 115, BBC News reports.

Dr. Rudolph and his team synthesized element 115 by blasting calcium ions (with 20 protons) at a film of americium, a radioactive element with 95 protons. Super-heavy elements like ununpentium decay rapidly, so the team measured the photons (light particles) released by the decay of the sample. They confirmed that the energy of the photons matched up with with the element's expected radioactive "fingerprint."

If added to the periodic table, element 115 would join its recently named neighbors, livermorium and flerovium (elements 114 and 116), which were added to the table in 2011.

The new evidence for element 115 will be presented in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters on August 27, 2013. An international committee of physicists and chemists will review the findings to determine whether the evidence is enough to confirm the element's existence, or whether further experiments will be required.

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