First superheavy element found in nature

unbibium

The hunt for superheavy elements has focused banging various heavy nuclei together and hoping they’ll stick. In this way, physicists have extended the periodic table by manufacturing elements 111, 112, 114, 116 and 118, albeit for vanishingly small instants. Although none of these elements is particularly long lived, they don’t have progressively shorter lives and this is taken as evidence that islands of nuclear stability exist out there and that someday we’ll find stable superheavy elements.

But if these superheavy nuclei are stable, why don’t we find them already on Earth? Turns out we do; they’ve been here all along. The news today is that a group led by Amnon Marinov at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has found the first naturally occuring superheavy nuclei by sifting through a large pile of the heavy metal thorium.

What they did was fire one thorium nucleus after another through a mass spectrometer to see how heavy each was. Thorium has an atomic number of 90 and occurs mainly in two isotopes with atomic weights of 230 and 232. All these showed up in the measurements along with a various molecular oxides and hydrides that form for technical reasons.

But something else showed up too. An element with a weight of 292 and an atomic number of around 122. That’s an extraordinary claim and quite rightly the team has been diligent in attempting to exclude alternative explanations such as th epresence of exotic molecules formed from impurities in the thorium sample or from the hydrocarbon in oil used in the vacuum pumping equipment). But these have all been ruled out, say Marinov and his buddies.

What they’re left with is the discovery of the first superheavy element, probably number 122.

What do we know about 122? Marinov and co say it has a half life in excess of 100 million years and occurs with an abundance of between 1 and 10 x10^-12, relative to thorium, which is a fairly common element (about as abundant as lead).

Theorists have mapped out the superheavy periodic table and 122 would be a member of the superheavy actinide group. It even has a name: eka-thorium or unbibium. Welcome to our world!

This may well open the flood gates to other similar discoveries. Uranium is the obvious next place to look for superheavy actinides. I’d bet good money that Marinov and his pals are eyeballing the stuff as I write.

Ref: arxiv.org/abs/0804.3869: Evidence for a Long-lived superheavy Nucleus with Atomic Mass Number A = 292 and Atomic Number Z @ 122 in Natural Th

67 Responses to “First superheavy element found in nature”

  1. PP says:

    “First superheavy element found in nature.”

    Yeah, maybe, first AFTER element 115 as Bob (Robert) Lazar has previously mentioned (not objectively proven though), as working (1988-1989) according to his own claim with back-engineering on captured Extra-Terrestrial-Crafts while at S-4 at Papoose Lake, NV, SSW of Detachment 3, Air Force Flight Test Center, i.e. Area 51.

  2. JohnWW says:

    As for elements 114 and 115: Based on extrapolation of the numbers neutrons required to stabilize successively heavier nuclei, along with “magic” numbers of neutrons and protons in “closed” shells (82, 114, 126, 184, etc.), the most stable nuclei heavier than at least Pu-244 (half-life 82 million years, found in uranium ores in small amounts) are most likely to be element 114 with mass 298 and 184 neutrons (the both nuclear and chemical homolog of Pb-208), and element 115 with mass 299 and also 184 neutrons (the both nuclear and chemical homolog of Bi-209). Also, element 126, if it exists, would have a most stable ground-state nucleus with a mass of around 320, and may be chemically similar to Pu if its 5g electrons are of similar energy to the 5f electrons in Pu.

  3. [...] on April 28th news hit the net that for the first time a superheavy element was found in nature. In the given case it’s unbibium, atomic number around 122. Usually such superheavy [...]

  4. [...] আরজিভ তথ্যভাণ্ডারের ব্লগে এ বিষয়ক খব

  5. J. Lee says:

    Is this the same guy that invested heavily in Beenie Babies?

  6. Codifex Maximus says:

    Super-heavy elements have many possible uses. They are most likely fission-able. They could possibly be used to shield spacecraft from cosmic rays, as projectile material for advanced particle accelerators, target material for a synchrotron, used to implement as yet undiscovered technological advances etc…

    If you do not understand something, do not ridicule it. Either learn it or accept it. Who knows? One day you may have a super heavy element powered car or better yet… a grill.

    Codifex

  7. Cosmic Rayz says:

    >They could possibly be used to shield spacecraft from cosmic rays

    And astronauts/cosmonauts/taikonauts would then die with very exotic secondary radiation…

    I thought composites containing lot’s of H would provide the best shielding.

  8. The only reason for supposing this to be element 122 is the assumption that it is an analogue of thorium in a 5g block starting after eka-radium, element 120. But it has far too few neutrons. Nuclei get more and more neutron-rich as atomic number increases. The stablest thorium and uranium isotopes have respectively 61.2% and 61.5% neutrons; Ubb292 would have only 58%. Impossible! The next magic number is 192, so my bet would be on something like element 104: rutherfordium292 would have 64.4% neutrons, which sounds about right. If the progression of oxidation states continues in the superheavies (which is questionable) there would be RfIV to match ThIV, and following the actinide contraction it might be about the right size.

  9. Oops! Answered my own question: next magic number is 184, which would be found in hassium292, analogue of osmium; neutrons 63% – a bit low and oxidation states up to VIII expected, but you never know what you can do with magic.

  10. James Wagner says:

    This is very interesting thank you for the info.
    I’m using this information in my 10th grade class for extra credit, thank you again

    -James

  11. Naveed Khan says:

    To whom it may concern,
    What will be the name,electronic configuration,chemical and physical properties of an element having atomic number 120 if discovered.

  12. Alex Varv says:

    Dear Bob Lazar,

    Please contact me at alexvarv@ameritech.net in this matter.

  13. Britt says:

    Ladies and Gentlemen,

    A few comments:

    First off, skepticism is a necessary part of the scientific method, experiements need to be repeatable and verified, otherwise they may just be a case of ooops, like Pons and Fleischman, so being skeptical is not to imply being deriding of the original experimenters (by most) it is meant to make sure that we actually have caught the unicorn, not merely a goat with only one horn!

    Secondly, More nukes? This is not about bigger and better bombs, this is about proving and extending theories about how the universe works, a better understanding of which is what Physics (and science in general) is about.

    Thirdly, deriding others as they try to discuss what this type of thing really means (suggesting someone is all book smarts and no real useful knowledge like knowing how to change a tire but being unable to actually do it) is not constructive to the argument. Being able to tell the ‘average person’ what this means to them, personally is difficult and as with many important discoveries, frequently takes decades to work out all the implications… An example are the equations we sometimes call Maxwell’s Equations, those were arrived at over 100 years ago and still we are discovering new things about them, new ramifications and applications.

    Just some thoughts.

    Britt…

  14. [...] notícia sobre la troballa de l’element unbibi article original de Marinov newscientist.com [...]

  15. A. L. Flanagan says:

    Great, so far we have anti-evolutionists and anti-global-warming nuts tying their pet causes into a speculative physics discovery. Where, oh where, are the cold fusion people?

  16. Thor says:

    I, for one, predict that this metal will be called “Uru,” and hammers made of it, when thrown, will return to their thrower.