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Japanese scientists claim first synthesis of element 113

September 26, 2012|By Jon Bardin
  • Scientists in Japan are claiming to be the first to synthesize element 113, ununtrium.
Scientists in Japan are claiming to be the first to synthesize element 113,… (Axel Schmidt / AFP/Getty…)

A group of Japanese scientists announced Wednesday that they have finally synthesized the elusive element 113, which has been called ununtrium.

If confirmed, the feat would mark the first time Japanese researchers have been first to synthesize an element of the periodic table. It would also be the first time an Asian research team has had the honor of naming an element.

Ununtrium -- meaning one-one-three -- is the temporary name given to element 113, which can only be created in a laboratory and is extremely unstable. According to the research team, they have been attempting to create the element for more than nine years before finally hitting on the right approach last month.

The team, led by Kosuke Morita of the RIKEN Nishina Center for Accelerator-based Science, had been conducting studies at the RIKEN Linear Accelerator, in a suburb of Tokyo called Wako, when they discovered the formula to create the element. The researchers collided zinc, which has 30 protons, with bismuth, which has 83. The result was an atom with 113 protons in its nucleus, the researchers say.

But the new element quickly decayed. Observing the nature of the decay is crucial to proving the identity of the new element. Morita says the decay data indicate that the collision did indeed create a 113-proton element, though the evidence has not yet been peer-reviewed.

Element 113 is not the most massive synthesized element. That distinction goes to 118, which has the temporary name ununoctium. But, in his statement, Morita expressed optimism that their discovery would be followed by even more ambitious feats:

"I would like to thank all the researchers and staff involved in this momentous result, who persevered with the belief that one day, 113 would be ours. For our next challenge, we look to the uncharted territory of element 119 and beyond."

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