Elemental Christening

Credit: Jen Sloan (design), Fernandobrasilien/commons.wikimedia.org (periodic table)

Credit: Jen Sloan (design), Fernandobrasilien/commons.wikimedia.org (periodic table)

Elements 114 and 116, known previously by the temporary monikers ununquadium and ununhexium, have officially been recognized as flerovium (Fl) and livermorium (Lv). The names honor the collaborative efforts of research teams at the Flerov Laboratory of Nuclear Reactions in Russia and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), and were formalized last May by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC). The new elements were synthesized by using a cyclotron to blast plutonium or curium targets with calcium ions, then waiting and hoping for instances of fusion. “It’s actually a very rare process,” says chemist Ken Moody of LLNL, a U.S. Department of Energy National Laboratory that is operated in part by UC Berkeley. “It can be frustrating waiting for weeks at a time while the cyclotron runs. You have to be stubborn.” Stubbornness has paid off this year. Flerovium joins group 14 of the periodic table, taking a seat beneath lead and tin. Livermorium shares a column with smelly tellurium, and radioactive polonium. At present, however, the defining characteristic of both elements seems to be brevity of existence: livermorium isotopes decay within milliseconds to flerovium, and Fl-289, flerovium’s most stable isotope, has a half-life of a minute or less. The announcement is part of an ongoing effort by researchers to manufacture “superheavy” elements, which inhabit the bottom of the periodic table. Progress has been steady, and an IUPAC Joint Working Party has already been established to weigh the relative merits of discovery claims for elements 113, 115, 117, and 118. With enough evidence, flerovium and livermorium may soon have named company. BSRium, anyone?

Leave a Reply