Move over, Roentgenium. There's a new super-heavy chemical element joining the periodic table.
The yet-to-be-named "element 112" has been officially recognized by the table's governing body, the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry.
A team of scientists, lead by Sigurd Hofmann at the GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung (Centre for Heavy Ion Research) in Darmstadt, Germany are credited with its discovery.
"The new element is approximately 277 times heavier than hydrogen, making it the heaviest element in the periodic table," the scientists said in a statement.
Hofmann and his team first synthesized the element in 1996 by firing charged zinc atoms through a 120 meter-long particle accelerator into a lead target. The zinc and lead nuclei were fused to form the new element.
An element's atomic number indicates the number of protons in the nucleus. Element 112 is the sum of the atomic numbers of the two initial elements, zinc having the atomic number 30 and lead the atomic number 82.
Element 112's mass number (the sum of protons and neutrons in the nucleus) was calculated by measuring the energy emitted by the particle as it decayed. Because the element is so large and unstable, it can only exist for a mere fraction of a second before decaying into other elements.
The induction of element 112 is the team's sixth to be confirmed and added to the periodic table in 30 years.
While GSI was able to repeat the creation of the new element in 2000, it wasn't until independent teams, including one at the RIKEN heavy-ion facility in Japan, that IUPAC's requirements of verification were met. In total, only four atoms of the element have ever been synthesized and identified.
Hoffman's team is now charged with proposing a name for the find before it can be added to the periodic table. IUPAC has asked the scientists to arrive at 112's new moniker within six months. ®