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Periodic table gets heavier after 10 years with addition of 2 elements

Californians, Russians teamed for discovery

- - Wednesday, June 8, 2011

It's time for scholars and fans of applied science to update their periodic tables after more than a decade's wait: Two elements officially have been added.

"Elements 114 and 116 were discovered more than 10 years ago by a team from Livermore and Russia," said Anne M. Stark, a spokeswoman for the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in California. "They have just been accepted into the periodic table."

Even when an element is discovered, its essence must be evident and supported by strong documentation before it can be considered for inclusion on the table.

The new elements, which meet the LLNL criteria of existing "beyond reasonable doubt," appear for less than a second.

Martyn Poliakoff, a research professor of chemistry at the University of Nottingham, explained in his recording for Periodic Videos.com that the empirical process for determining the existence of the two radioactive elements involved the collaboration of a Russian and Californian team that collided curium atoms.

"When they create an atom, it bangs into a target and then sits in the target and begins to decay," he said.

"And each time it decays, it goes from one element to another. Gamma rays [energetic waves] are given out, and these are detected."

It this case, 116 decayed into 114. Mr. Poliakoff showed typed reports from the research teams that detailed conclusive data from their experiments.

"This is what the scientists saw, and they believed that this is really good evidence that they had made the elements," he said.

After reviewing the reports, which covered elements 113 through 118, the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry accepted elements 114 and 116 as periodic table mainstays June 1.

Their tentative titles are ununquadium and ununhexium, based on their atomic numbers.

In the video, Mr. Poliakoff showed his cutting-edge mug designed with a periodic table that sports the two newest elements.

The additions are superheavy elements, which means they have atomic numbers equal to or greater than 112.

According to the chemistry section on the LLNL website, superheavy elements are produced artificially in cyclotron experiments.

Speculations about the official names are flerovium for element 114 and moscovium for 116, but the LLNL has not confirmed any official titles.

"When they were first discovered, it was quite a boon for the community," Ms. Stark said. "We will collaborate with the Russians to decide on names."