WASHINGTON, May 2 (Xinhua) -- The existence of a new superheavy element known as element 117, which was first created artificially in 2010, have been confirmed, an international team of researchers said Friday.
The research, published in the U.S. journal Physical Review Letters, made it one step closer to earn an official spot on the periodic table.
The discovery of element 117 was first announced in 2010 by a Russia-U.S. collaboration working at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna, Russia. The original experiment was repeated successfully in 2012.
The present experiment was performed by an international team led by scientists at the GSI Helmholtz Center for Heavy Ion Research, an accelerator laboratory located in Darm-stadt, Germany.
In this experiment, scientists bombarded a berkelium target with calcium ions until they collided and formed element 117, which then decayed into elements 115 and 113.
Elements beyond atomic number 104 are referred to as superheavy elements. The most long-lived ones are expected to be situated on a so-called "island of stability," where nuclei with extremely long half-lives should be found.
Although superheavy elements have not been found in nature, they can be produced by accelerating beams of nuclei and shooting them at the heaviest possible target nuclei. Fusion of two nuclei, a very rare event, occasionally produces a superheavy element. Those currently accessible generally only exist for a short time.
"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," Horst Stocker, scientific director of GSI, said in a statement.
The researchers said that a committee comprising members of the International Unions of Pure and Applied Physics and Chemistry will review these new findings, along with the original ones, and decide whether further experiments are needed before acknowledging the element's discovery.
After acceptance, the committee would determine which institution may propose names of element 117, which is now temporarily dubbed ununseptium, they added.