Japanese scientists are chuffed to bits to announce that they have discovered the so-far undiscovered superheavy element with atomic number 113, and have staked a claim to naming it - and so joining the big leagues of element-finding boffinry nations.
According to a statement issued by the Japanese research institute RIKEN:
The search for superheavy elements is a difficult and painstaking process. Such elements do not occur in nature and must be produced through experiments involving nuclear reactors or particle accelerators, via processes of nuclear fusion or neutron absorption. Since the first such element was discovered in 1940, the United States, Russia and Germany have competed to synthesize more of them. Elements 93 to 103 were discovered by the Americans, elements 104 to 106 by the Russians and the Americans, elements 107 to 112 by the Germans, and the two most recently named elements, 114 and 116, by cooperative work of the Russians and Americans.
With their latest findings, associate chief scientist Kosuke Morita and his team are set follow in these footsteps and make Japan the first country in Asia to name an atomic element.
The Japanese science spokesmen go on to say that Morita and his colleagues synthesised element 113 by the simple process of firing zinc ions at ten per cent of the speed of light into a layer of bismuth, which no doubt has had Russian, American and German boffins slapping their foreheads in amazement at not thinking of such a basic ploy.
It seems that this was followed by a chain of no less than six successive alpha decays - in which 2-proton, 2-neutron helium ions or alpha particles are emitted from the main nucleus - which could then be retrospectively backtracked from the resulting mendelevium (element 101) isotope to show that the starting ion must have been element 113.
"I would like to thank all the researchers and staff involved in this momentous result, who persevered with the belief that one day, 113 would be ours," said a chuffed Morita in tinned quotes. "For our next challenge, we look to the uncharted territory of element 119 and beyond."
Morita and his fellow element-hunters report their work in the Journal of Physical Society of Japan, 2012 (DOI: 10.1143/JPSJ.81.103201). ®