View Full Version : Superheavy element found in nature


Genocidicbunny
Apr 28, 2008, 10:45 AM
The hunt for superheavy elements has focused banging various heavy nuclei together and hoping they’ll stick. In this way, physicists have extended the periodic table by manufacturing elements 111, 112, 114, 116 and 118, albeit for vanishingly small instants. Although none of these elements is particularly long lived, they don’t have progressively shorter lives and this is taken as evidence that islands of nuclear stability exist out there and that someday we’ll find stable superheavy elements.

But if these superheavy nuclei are stable, why don’t we find them already on Earth? Turns out we do; they’ve been here all along. The news today is that a group led by Amnon Marinov at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has found the first naturally occuring superheavy nuclei by sifting through a large pile of the heavy metal thorium.

What they did was fire one thorium nucleus after another through a mass spectrometer to see how heavy each was. Thorium has an atomic number of 90 and occurs mainly in two isotopes with atomic weights of 230 and 232. All these showed up in the measurements along with a various molecular oxides and hydrides that form for technical reasons.

But something else showed up too. An element with a weight of 292 and an atomic number of around 122. That’s an extraordinary claim and quite rightly the team has been diligent in attempting to exclude alternative explanations such as th epresence of exotic molecules formed from impurities in the thorium sample or from the hydrocarbon in oil used in the vacuum pumping equipment). But these have all been ruled out, say Marinov and his buddies.

What they’re left with is the discovery of the first superheavy element, probably number 122.

What do we know about 122? Marinov and co say it has a half life in excess of 100 million years and occurs with an abundance of between 1 and 10 x10^-12, relative to thorium, which is a fairly common element (about as abundant as lead).

Theorists have mapped out the superheavy periodic table and 122 would be a member of the superheavy actinide group. It even has a name: eka-thorium or unbibium. Welcome to our world!

This may well open the flood gates to other similar discoveries. Uranium is the obvious next place to look for superheavy actinides. I’d bet good money that Marinov and his pals are eyeballing the stuff as I write.

http://arxivblog.com/?p=385

This is the coolest piece of news ive heard all week. Correct me if im wrong, but this is the first stable element with a g-shell. If so, as the guy said, this is opening some pretty big gates.

Perfection
Apr 28, 2008, 10:53 AM
I wouldn't claim it to be definitive yet, but a cool prospect.

Truronian
Apr 28, 2008, 10:55 AM
Pretty cool.

Gigaz
Apr 28, 2008, 11:50 AM
I've checked it on wikipedia. Elements with an electron on the first g-shell are really called superactinoids.
Damn cool!

MrCynical
Apr 28, 2008, 11:58 AM
If this is true (and that's a major if, as I haven't come across this on any major news site yet), it's a big discovery. I think it was element 126 they reckoned would be most stable in that region of the periodic table? Conceivably 122 is on the lower end of the island of stability.

ArneHD
Apr 29, 2008, 03:16 AM
Damn interesting, that is true, but I'm wondering what they will call a mineral that includes the atom.

dutchfire
Apr 29, 2008, 04:02 AM
I'm a bit sceptical, since google only mentions some shaddy blogs when searching, but if it's true, it's a huge discovery.

lovett
Apr 29, 2008, 01:39 PM
So, what would this be useful for?

Truronian
Apr 29, 2008, 04:15 PM
So, what would this be useful for?

Not very much, given the quantities.

lovett
Apr 29, 2008, 05:12 PM
Not very much, given the quantities.

Well theoretically?

Say decent amounts of the stuff were manufacturable. What then?

Are they useful for something more then ammunition?

Genocidicbunny
Apr 29, 2008, 05:33 PM
First they would have to figure its physical properties. So little of it has been collected that its impossible to experiment on it.

Masquerouge
Apr 30, 2008, 01:35 PM
First they would have to figure its physical properties. So little of it has been collected that its impossible to experiment on it.

I thought that Mendeleev's periodical table was all about predicting the properties of elements according to their place in it?

Eran of Arcadia
Apr 30, 2008, 01:59 PM
Why do they keep referring to the scientists's associates as "buddies" or "pals"?

Masquerouge
Apr 30, 2008, 03:52 PM
Why do they keep referring to the scientists's associates as "buddies" or "pals"?

Poor journalistic style trying too hard to pass scientists as human beings capable of feelings and emotions.

Eran of Arcadia
Apr 30, 2008, 03:54 PM
Poor journalistic style trying too hard to pass scientists as human beings capable of feelings and emotions.

I am sure that scientists are human beings capable of feelings and emotions, and that they have pals and buddies. I am also sure that the set of "scientific associate" and "pal and/or buddy" is not mutually inclusive for all scientists.

Wait, what?

Rik Meleet
Apr 30, 2008, 04:44 PM
Sounds exciting. :)
However, I don't think it'll change science or our lives; Unbibium is just too rare to do anything with; even if it exists naturally.
That is - unless we locate a large source, on earth or outside the earth.

uppi
Apr 30, 2008, 05:27 PM
I thought that Mendeleev's periodical table was all about predicting the properties of elements according to their place in it?

1) The periodic table only makes predictions for the chemical properties and not the physical properties.

2) It makes only predictions. Nature doesn't have to obey the predictions we make. Experiments would have to be made to see, if these predictions actually work.

3) According to the predictions the element in question would be the first discovered one to have electrons in the "g-subshell" (l=4) in its ground state. It is hard to extrapolate from the periodic table, because there would be no other element like it.

4) There are quite some elements that have a slightly different electron configuration than the one predicted by the periodic table and therefore they behave differently than one might expect.

AL_DA_GREAT
May 01, 2008, 12:30 PM
I've checked it on wikipedia. Elements with an electron on the first g-shell are really called superactinoids.
Damn cool!

A g shell!?!?! I had trouble learning d.

IamJohn
May 01, 2008, 02:25 PM
I really doubt this, all elements in this category have extremely small half lives, they are stable in the way that the elements last milliseconds, not nanoseconds. ;)

ArneHD
May 01, 2008, 03:46 PM
I really doubt this, all elements in this category have extremely small half lives, they are stable in the way that the elements last milliseconds, not nanoseconds. ;)

Except for the magical number (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magic_number_(physics)).

taillesskangaru
May 02, 2008, 09:43 AM
This is cool. A nice change to see an element that's not man-made.

Narz
May 03, 2008, 03:48 AM
Looks like former whiz-kids who memorized last year's periodic table are going to be out of their element now. :D

Narz
May 03, 2008, 03:48 AM
Actually probably not, they'll just memorize the new ones. :undecide:

Genocidicbunny
May 03, 2008, 12:38 PM
Just imagine having to do electron notation for that element:
1s2, 2s2, 2p6, 3s2.......7g2..