An Elemental Step in the Case for Element 117

With the release of furthur evidence towards element 117’s existence, could we be seeing a new element added to the periodic table in the near future?

Will element 117, nicknamed Ununseptium, soon join the other elements in the periodic table? Image by Jenn Young.

Will element 117, nicknamed Ununseptium, soon join the other elements in the periodic table? Image by Jenn Young.

This year has brought with it potential experimental confirmation of the existence of element 117 which could see it officially added to the Periodic Table. The number 117 refers to the element’s atomic number: the number of protons contained in an atom’s nucleus. Ununseptium is a temporary systematic name while the existence of the element is pending corroboration.

It has been claimed that four atoms of the element, first recognized in an experiment in 2010, have been generated by a team at the GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research in Germany. Should the International Unions of Pure and Applied Chemistry and Physics deem the results sufficient validation of the existence of the element, then the place on the Periodic Table would be solidified and a new, permanent name decided.

The majority of elements which are heavier than Uranium (atomic number 92) are unstable, and as a result are not naturally abundant. This instability results from the increasing size of the atomic nucleus- there are more protons with their positive charges repelling one another. Elements like 117 can only be brought into existence by effectively smashing together lighter elements. When this experiment was first conducted in 2010 these were Calcium and Berkelium (atomic numbers 20 and 97 respectively).

Ununseptium stands among several identified, but not confirmed, elements in the far region of the periodic table, all of which require fervent proof before their position can be ratified. Back in 2012 the last elements to have names officially added to the periodic table following such evidence, were Flerovium (114) and Livermorium (116).

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