Researchers at Sweden’s Lund University have announced that they’ve been able to confirm the existence of element 115 on the periodic table. Their research is being published in this week’s edition of Physical Review Letters.
This research team isn’t the first to create element 115, which is currently known as ununpentium. The first claim that ununpentium had been synthesized in a lab was by a joint group of Russian and American researchers, who believed that they created it in their lab in 2004.
However, acknowledgement of new elements is regulated by a Joint Working Group between the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP) and the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC). When the Russian claims were examined, the Joint Working Group concluded that they did “not met the criteria for discovery.”
The new research at Lund University, however, corroborates the measurements made by the Russian research team in 2004. This provides a strong indication that both teams successfully synthesized the new element in the lab.
The Lund research team created ununpentium by bombarding americium, which has 95 protons, with calcium, which has 20 protons. The bombardment created elements with 115 protons. The atoms were so unstable, however, that they decayed almost instantly. So to demonstrate that they had created element 115, the scientists had to actually measure the photons released by the atoms decay and confirmed that it matched what physics predicts would be the decay pattern for ununpentium.
The next step in the process is for the IUPAC/IUPAP Joint Working Group to then confirm that there’s enough data to support the synthesis of element 115. Once that’s completed, they’ll then begin the naming process. Once complete, element 115 will be given an official name and added to the periodic table of elements, right in between flerovium (114) and livermorium (116), which were added to the periodic table in 2011.
If element 115 is added, it will likely be added at the same time as element 113, which was also rejected for lack of data by the Joint Working Group when element 115 was. However, in August of 2012, a group of researchers at RIKEN Nishina Center for Accelerator-Based Science in Japan claimed to have synthesized element 113. If that finding is also confirmed by the Joint Working Group, there may be two new elements on the periodic table soon.