Added by Erik West on August 28, 2013
A team of researchers have confirmed the existence of a new substance, temporarily named ununpentium. The new substance makes its home in element 115 of the periodic table of elements – a table that lists all known substances of which all materials are composed.
The research team was led by a team of physicists at Lund University of Sweden – among the world’s top 100 universities and, founded in 1666, is one of Europe’s oldest universities.
Dirk Rudolph, Professor at the Division of Atomic Physics at Lund University, said, “This was a very successful experiment and is one of the most important in the field in recent years.”
Physicists knew that the new substance could exist and created a place for it on the periodic table of elements a long time ago. In 2006, a team of researchers performed experiments that confirmed the existence of the new substance. The one experiment did not provide enough to the IUPAC, the governing body of the periodic table, for the substance to be added to the list of known substances.
The new experiment, performed at a research facility in Germany, confirms the substance’s existence because the experiment to confirm it was performed by team and using equipment that was different from the experiment performed in 2006.
The researchers created the new substance by using a particle accelerator to bombard a substance called Americium with Calcium ions. The bombardment caused the new element to be created for a brief time – elements like these last only a very short time before they revert to another substance. The experiments, researchers say, are conducted using radioactive elements which tend to decay, or change, into other elements as they give off particles – a process known as radioactive decay.
Researchers say they confirmed the existence of the new substance by measuring the particles given off by the new substance as it decayed – known as alpha particles. While alpha particles are relatively common, their energies vary. The energy of the alpha particles coincided with the energies calculated by scientists before conducting the experiment.
Physicists say experiments like this contribute to our knowledge and understanding of the fundamental aspects of all substances while also helping scientists gain a better understanding of fusion – the process by which new elements get created using existing elements.
Earth’s ‘heaviest’ substance is uranium, element number 92 – which occurs naturally. Elements beyond number 92 have been created by scientists. Scientists have found practical uses for elements numbered up to 100; the remaining elements don’t yet have any uses outside of research.
Dmitri Mendeleev, a Russian chemist who lived between 1834 and 1907, is widely credited with the first formal publication of periodic table in 1869 – although precursors were in existence. The arrangement of the table is in question as understanding of the universe and its mechanisms improves.
Alpha particle energies measure particles’ momentum when they are released as a result of decay by a particle created through fusion. Alpha particles are a relatively form of radiation since they cannot travel far and can effectively be stopped by paper; however, they are dangerous when inhaled and remain in contact with tissues like the lungs, skin, and others. Gamma radiation is the most powerful and dangerous; gamma radiation can only be stopped by large amounts of mass, regardless of the material, although the use of lead is common.