Time to add 118 to the Periodic Table?
Physicists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), Calif., and the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (JINR), Dubna, Russia, have purported the existence of the newest superheavy element, element 118.
'In experiments conducted at the JINR U400 cyclotron, the research group observed atomic decay patterns, or chains, that establish the existence of element 118 (temporarily dubbed ununoctium). Although its half-life is on the order of less than a fraction of a second, the discovery of 118, if independently confirmed, would bolster efforts of nuclear physicists to discover the upper bounds of stability in atomic nuclei, known in nuclear physics circles as the 'island of stability: "The decay properties of all the isotopes that we have made so far paint the picture of a large, sort of flat 'Island of Stability' and indicate that we may have luck if we try to go even heavier," says Ken Moody, Livermore's team leader.
"The world is made up of about 90 elements. Anything more you can learn about the periodic table is exciting. It can tell us why the world is here and what it is made of," adds Moody.
If confirmed, the existence of element 118 will also put a close to a history of speculation. In 1999, a team at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Calif. announced that they had created 118. It was later shown that their results were fabricated by physicist Victor Ninov, who was subsequently fired. LLNL, www.llnl.gov