Scientists Create New 'Superheavy' Element

View into the 120-meter long linear accelerator at GSI, which accelerates calcium-ions used to produce new elements. (G. Otto, GSI Helmholtz Center for Heavy Ion)

It looks like there's a new kid on the block of periodic table of elements.

Scientists say they've succeeded in creating an element with the atomic number 117.

This is the second time the element has been observed in a lab, making it increasingly likely that the unnamed element will be officially recognized, according to the international team of scientists.

The latest findings may also help scientists discover future "superheavy" elements - those with more than 104 protons in the nucleus. Uranium has the highest atomic number of any element found in nature - 94, meaning that it contains 94 protons in its nucleus.

To create elements in a lab, scientists smash nuclei together with the hopes that they will fuse, and remain relatively stable. Nuclei rarely fuse together, but sometimes when they do, a new element is created. These unstable elements tend to last mere nanoseconds.

Still, scientists believe that as the atomic numbers of discovered elements rise ever-higher, they will come to an "island of stability" where some elements can exist much longer than a few seconds.

Number 116 on the periodic table is Livermorium, first detected in 2000 and so-named to honor the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California.

This latest discovery, scientists say, may help them find that island.

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