Nuclear research: Elusive element 117 created

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So far, up to the atomic number 118, only one element had yet to be produced — element 117, temporarily referred to as ‘ununseptium’. Yuri Oganessian and colleagues in Russia and the US have now announced doing just this, in a paper accepted on Monday in Physical Review Letters.

By bombarding the actinide berkelium (Bk-249 that has 97 protons and 152 neutrons) with calcium (Ca-48, with 20 protons and 28 neutrons), the team has produced 2 different isotopes of the elusive element 117: ‘117’-294, with a half-life of 78 milliseconds, ‘117’-293 with a half-life of 14 milliseconds, as ScienceNews explains.

Despite these very short half-lives, the authors mention that the decaying properties of element 117 support the existence of the famous ‘Island of Stability’, an area of the periodic table where superheavy elements – which normally decay extremely rapidly – are predicted to have extra stability, conferred by the arrangement of their nucleons in closed shells.

Only a couple of months after element 112 was officially named copernicium, which Neil had told us about here, it looks like the IUPAC will be kept busy pondering on a name and symbol for ‘ununseptium’.


Anne Pichon

(Associate Editor, Nature Chemistry)

Anne Pichon

Senior Editor, Nature Chemistry, Springer Nature

Anne received a broad training in chemistry at the National Graduate School of Chemistry in Montpellier, France. She then focused on inorganic and supramolecular chemistry and obtained her MPhil and PhD degrees from the Queen's University Belfast, UK, investigating porous coordination polymers for host–guest applications. After an internship with Nature Reviews Drug Discovery, Anne moved to John Wiley and Sons in 2007 as an assistant editor of the Society of Chemical Industry journals. She joined Nature Chemistry in October 2008, and was initially based in Tokyo where she also worked on other publishing projects with Nature Asia-Pacific. In April 2013, Anne relocated to the London office and now works full time on the journal.