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Articles / Physics

The heavier elements in the Periodic Table are located at the bottom and have an atomic number (representing the amount of protons) of 104 or more. Two international teams of scientists are racing to create the heaviest chemical element in the known universe. One of the teams, operating out of Germany, consists of scientists from the United States, Western Europe and Japan. The other, operating out of the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna, Russia, consists of Russian and American scientists.

The principle of creating heavier atoms is simple. Each team trying to create this very heavy element is given 10 milligrams of berkelium, an element with an atomic number of 97. They then bombard berkelium atoms with a beam of titanium atoms. Titanium's 22 will combine with berkelium's 97 to create element 119, which will be the heaviest element known to Man. The kicker is that atoms collide in a way necessary to create a new element only around once a month and the scientists will have to find it among around 100 000 other particle collisions occurring every second. Even less helpful is the fact that heavier elements decay very fast. It only takes 320 days for half of this sample to have decayed into lighter elements.

Even after a new element is created, nobody gets credited with its discovery until it can be replicated.

Written by: Denis Ivanov

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