SAN FRANCISCO— Scientists at the Bay Area’s Lawrence Livermore National Lab, along with an international group of researchers have officially discovered a trio of new elements, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory announced the confirmation made by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) on December 31, 2015.
With the IUPAC confirming in 2011 that the name Livermorium for element 116 was chosen to honor Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), the newly discovered elements 115, 117 and 118 are one step closer to being named.
In 2004, Lawrence Livermore joined forces with the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna (JINR), Russia to discover elements 113 and 115, and by 2006 the combined teams discovered element 118.
According to a Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory press release, 2010 marked the collaboration among the LLNL/JINR team, who worked with researchers from Research Institute for Advanced Reactors, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Vanderbilt University and the University of Nevada, Las Vagas to ultimately discover element 117.
“This is a very exciting time for our collaboration and shows that all of the hard work has paid off. It is especially gratifying to receive this news right as we enter a new year,” said Dawn Shaughnessy, Lawrence Livermore’s principal investigator for the Heavy Element Group.
“I am so proud of all of the hard work that this group has done over the years performing these experiments. Our colleagues in Russia have worked endless hours at the accelerator working toward these results. It is a wonderful gift to the entire group that we are recognized for our efforts in accomplishing these highly difficult experiments and for the years of work it takes to successfully create a new chemical element.”
The IUPAC additionally announced that a Japanese collaboration officially discovered element 113. However, the LLNL/JINR team “had submitted a paper on the discovery of elements 113 and 115 about the same time as the Japanese group.”
Lab officials note that all the elements discovered beyond atomic number 104 are “superheavy elements” with element 118 being the heaviest element to be discovered thus far.
“The discovery of heavier and heavier elements brings researchers one step closer to the ‘island of stability,’ a term in nuclear physics that refers to the possible existence of a region beyond the current periodic table where new superheavy elements with special numbers of neutrons and protons would exhibit increased stability,” states the LLNL press release.
Lab officials further mention that the discoveries are a step toward examining the existence of a region that extends beyond the current periodic table to even heavier elements, offering the opportunity for further chemistry experiments.