Search: Nuclear chemistry
Working with element 112 is not easy - it does not occur in the wild and only a few atoms at a time can be made. In this new paper a large group of Swiss, Russian, and Polish authors report:
"a more reliable chemical characterization of element 112, involving the production of two atoms of 283112 through the alpha decay of the short-lived 287114 (which itself forms in the nuclear fusion reaction of 48Ca with 242Pu) and the adsorption of the two atoms on a gold surface. By directly comparing the adsorption characteristics of 283112 to that of mercury and the noble gas radon, we find that element 112 is very volatile and, unlike radon, reveals a metallic interaction with the gold surface. These adsorption characteristics establish element 112 as a typical element of group 12, and its successful production unambiguously establishes the approach to the island of stability of superheavy elements through 48Ca-induced nuclear fusion reactions with actinides."1
In honour of scientist and astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543), the discovering team around Professor Sigurd Hofmann suggested the name copernicium with the element symbol Cp for the new element 112, discovered at the GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung (Center for Heavy Ion Research) in Darmstadt. It was Copernicus who discovered that the Earth orbits the Sun, thus paving the way for our modern view of the world. Thirteen years ago, element 112 was discovered by an international team of scientists at the GSI accelerator facility. A few weeks ago, the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry, IUPAC, officially confirmed their discovery. In around six months, IUPAC will officially endorse the new element's name. This period is set to allow the scientific community to discuss the suggested name copernicium before the IUPAC naming.
"After IUPAC officially recognized our discovery, we – that is all scientists involved in the discovery – agreed on proposing the name copernicium for the new element 112. We would like to honor an outstanding scientist, who changed our view of the world", says Sigurd Hofmann, head of the discovering team.
Copernicus was born 1473 in Torun; he died 1543 in Frombork, Poland. Working in the field of astronomy, he realized that the planets circle the Sun. His discovery refuted the then accepted belief that the Earth was the center of the universe. His finding was pivotal for the discovery of the gravitational force, which is responsible for the motion of the planets. It also led to the conclusion that the stars are incredibly far away and the universe inconceivably large, as the size and position of the stars does not change even though the Earth is moving. Furthermore, the new world view inspired by Copernicus had an impact on the human self-concept in theology and philosophy: humankind could no longer be seen as the center of the world.
With its planets revolving around the Sun on different orbits, the solar system is also a model for other physical systems. The structure of an atom is like a microcosm: its electrons orbit the atomic nucleus like the planets orbit the Sun. Exactly 112 electrons circle the atomic nucleus in an atom of the new element "copernicium".
Element 112 is the heaviest element in the periodic table, 277 times heavier than hydrogen. It is produced by a nuclear fusion, when bombarding zinc ions onto a lead target. As the element already decays after a split second, its existence can only be proved with the help of extremely fast and sensitive analysis methods. Twenty-one scientists from Germany, Finland, Russia and Slovakia have been involved in the experiments that led to the discovery of element 112.
Since 1981, GSI accelerator experiments have yielded the discovery of six chemical elements, which carry the atomic numbers 107 to 112. The discovering teams at GSI already named five of them: element 107 is called bohrium, element 108 hassium, element 109 meitnerium, element 110 darmstadtium, and element 111 is named roentgenium.
Dr. Thomas Neff, a research affiliate at the MIT (Massachussetts Institute of Technology) Center for International Studies states that limited supplies of uranium fuel for nuclear power plants may thwart the renewed and growing interest in nuclear energy in the United States and other nations.
Over the past 20 years, safety concerns and politics dampened all aspects of development of nuclear energy. No new reactors were ordered and there was investment neither in new uranium mines nor in building facilities to produce fuel for existing reactors. Instead, the nuclear industry lived off commercial and government inventories which are now nearly gone. It is stated that worldwide uranium production meets only about 65% of current reactor requirements.
A few years ago uranium inventories were being sold at US$ 10 per pound; the current price is US$ 85 per pound.
Much of the uranium used by the United States comes from mines in Australia, Canada, Namibia, and, Kazakhstan. Small amounts are mined in the western United States, but the United States is largely reliant on overseas supplies. The United States also relies for half its fuel on Russia under a “swords to ploughshares” 1991 deal. This deal is converting about 20,000 Russian nuclear weapons to fuel for U.S. nuclear power plants, but it ends in 2013, leaving a substantial supply gap for the United States.
Further, China, India, and even Russia have plans for massive deployments of nuclear power and are trying to lock up supplies from countries on which the United States has traditionally relied. As a result, the United States could be the “last one to buy, and it could pay the highest prices, if it can get uranium at all,” Neff said. “The take-home message is that if we're going to increase use of nuclear power, we need massive new investments in capacity to mine uranium and facilities to process it.”
Mined uranium comes in several forms, or isotopes. For starting a nuclear chain reaction in a reactor, the only important isotope is uranium-235, which accounts for only 7 out of 1000 atoms in the mined product. To fuel a nuclear reactor, the concentration of uranium-235 must be 40 to 50 out of 1000 atoms. This is done by separating isotopes in an enrichment plant to achieve the higher concentration, but there is not enough processing capacity worldwide to enrich all the uranium required.
The new element 112 discovered by GSI has been officially recognized and will be named by the Darmstadt group in due course. Their suggestion should be made public over this summer.
The element 112, discovered at the GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung (Centre for Heavy Ion Research) in Darmstadt, has been officially recognized as a new element by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC). IUPAC confirmed the recognition of element 112 in an official letter to the head of the discovering team, Professor Sigurd Hofmann. The letter furthermore asks the discoverers to propose a name for the new element. Their suggestion will be submitted within the next weeks. In about 6 months, after the proposed name has been thoroughly assessed by IUPAC, the element will receive its official name. The new element is approximately 277 times heavier than hydrogen, making it the heaviest element in the periodic table.
“We are delighted that now the sixth element – and thus all of the elements discovered at GSI during the past 30 years – has been officially recognized. During the next few weeks, the scientists of the discovering team will deliberate on a name for the new element”, says Sigurd Hofmann. 21 scientists from Germany, Finland, Russia and Slovakia were involved in the experiments around the discovery of the new element 112.
Since 1981, GSI accelerator experiments have yielded the discovery of six chemical elements, which carry the atomic numbers 107 to 112. GSI has already named their officially recognized elements 107 to 111: element 107 is called Bohrium, element 108 Hassium, element 109 Meitnerium, element 110 Darmstadtium, and element 111 is named Roentgenium.
Experiments conducted at the Flerov Laboratory of Nuclear Reactions (Joint Institute for Nuclear Research) at Dubna in Russia indicate that element 118 (ununoctium, Uuo) was produced. Not too much though, one atom in the spring of 2002 and two more in 2005.1,2
The 2002 experiment involved firing a beam of 4820Ca at 24998Cf. The experiment took 4 months and involved a beam of 2.5 x 1019 calcium ions to produce the single event believed to be the synthesis of 294118Uuo.
24998Cf + 4820Ca → 294118Uuo + 31n
This ununoctium isotope loses three alpha particles in rapid succesion:
294118Uuo → 290116Uuh + 42He (1.29 milliseconds)
290116Uuh → 286114Uuq + 42He (14.4 milliseconds)
286114Uuq → 282112Uub + 42He (230 milliseconds)
The 282112Uub species then undergoes spontaneous fragmentation (denoted SF) to other species. It took a few years to carry out enough research to properly characterize the decompoition products.
In 2005 a similar experiment but with more sensitive detectors and a total beam dose of 1.6 x 1019 calcium ions resulted in the detection of two further events arising from the formation of 294118Uuo.
This work is particularly significant given the scandal associated with the first report (now withdrawn) of element 118.
- 1. Synthesis of the isotopes of elements 118 and 116 in the Cf249 and Cm245+Ca48 fusion reactions,
, Physical Review C, 10/2006, Volume 74, Issue 4, (2006)
- 2. Synthesis and decay properties of superheavy elements,
, Pure and Applied Chemistry, 2006, Volume 78, Issue 5, p.889 - 904, (2006)
Partial Abstract. Here we report a more reliable chemical characterization of element 112, involving the production of two atoms of 283112 through the alpha decay of the short-lived 287114 (which itself forms in the nuclear fusion reaction12 of 48Ca with 242Pu) and the adsorption of the two atoms on a gold surface. By directly comparing the adsorption characteristics of 283112 to that of mercury and the noble gas radon, we find that element 112 is very volatile and, unlike radon, reveals a metallic interaction with the gold surface. These adsorption characteristics establish element 112 as a typical element of group 12, and its successful production unambiguously establishes the approach to the island of stability of superheavy elements through 48Ca-induced nuclear fusion reactions with actinides.Chemical characterization of element 112, , Nature, 5/2007, Volume 447, Issue 7140, p.72 - 75, (2007)
Workers in the USA verify the production of element 114 in the reaction of 244-MeV 48Ca with 242Pu. Two chains of time- and position-correlated decays were assigned to 286114 and 287114. The observed decay modes, half-lives, and decay energies agree with the original claims of researchers at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research at Dubna in Russia. The Russian results were first reported in 1999. Such independent verification is vital for verification purposes. The measured cross sections at a center-of-target energy of 244 MeV for the 242Pu(48Ca,3–4n)287,286114 reactions were 1.4(+3.2, -1.2) pb each, which are lower than the reported values.1
- 1. Independent Verification of Element 114 Production in the Ca-48 + Pu-242 Reaction,
, Physical Review Letters, Volume 103, Number 13, p.132502, (2009)
The team of Berkeley Lab scientists that announced two years ago (1999) the observation of what appeared to be Element 118 (heaviest undiscovered transuranic element at the time) has retracted its original paper after several confirmation experiments failed to reproduce the results. This means that the pages for element 118 and parts of the data for element 116 are wrong.
It is claimed that recent experimental results involving the bomabardment of americium-243 with calcium-48 ions are consistent with the formation in the laboratory of a few atoms of elements 113 and 115. In experiments conducted at the JINR U400 cyclotron with the Dubna gas-filled separator between July 14 and Aug. 10, 2003, atomic decay patterns were observed that are said to confirm the existence of element 115 and element 113. In these decay chains, element 113 is produced via the alpha decay of element 115.1
The news has been picked up in a number of online sources including Nature2 and elsewhere.
- 1. Experiments on the synthesis of element 115 in the reaction 243Am(48Ca,xn)291−x115,
, Physical Review C, 2/2004, Volume 69, Issue 2, (2004)
- 2. Modern alchemists make two new elements,
, Nature, 2/2004, (2004)