Researchers have seen evidence of the artificial creation of a new element, dubbed 117.
The element is considered to be "superheavy" because it has an atomic number higher than 104, a Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz news release reported. The most "long-lived" elements are located on the "island of stability," in which the nuclei have an extremely long half-life.
Superheavy elements are not believed to occur naturally, but they can be created by "accelerating beams of nuclei and shooting them at the heaviest possible target nuclei," the news release reported. The fusion of tow nuclei can also form a new element.
In 2010 it was first announced that a new element with the atomic number 117 had been announced. Researchers at the university and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) worked together to produce the special berkelium target material essential for the creation of the element.
The facility will work to transform the exotic radioisotope into a target that can withstand calcium-ion beams from the GSI accelerator," the news release reported.
Atoms of element 117 were separated and identified through radioactive decay.
The researchers uncovered a "previously unknown alpha-decay pathway in Db-270 (dubnium - element 105) and the new isotope Lr-266 (lawrencium - element 103)," the news release reported. These are some of the longest-lived isotopes with half-lives between one and 11 hours.
"This is of paramount importance as even longer-lived isotopes are predicted to exist in a region of enhanced nuclear stability," Christoph Düllmann said in the news release.
"The successful experiments on element 117 are an important step on the path to the production and detection of elements situated on the 'island of stability' of superheavy elements," Prof. Horst Stöcker, Scientific Director of GSI, said in the news release.
The element has not yet been named, and won't be until it has been determined whether or not more experiments are required in order to acknowledge its existence.
"This is an important scientific result and a compelling example of international cooperation in science, advancing superheavy element research by leveraging the special capabilities of national laboratories in Germany and the U.S.," ORNL Director Thom Mason said in the news release.