Element 120 And The Islands Of Stability

Since the early 2000s a team of chemists/nuclear physicists have been synthesizing new elements using a particle accelerator. With the latest element being created being element 118, Organesson, named after the discoverer of the element, Yuri Organesson. Even just creating these elements is a big deal. Think of it this way, one of the most powerful things in the universe, stars, which literally are the gods of the universe, are they not capable of creating any of these elements. What an achievement that mere 6ft life-forms have completed, putting the stars to shame. 

In Dubna, Russia, a new particle accelerator known as the “Super Heavy Element Factory” has finished being built. The first trials, or experiments are set to begin this year. The accelerator will be trying to create elements 120 and 119, and thus starting the eighth row on Mendeleev’s periodic table. 

The main problem of creating elements 120 and 119, is that they require different target atoms and beam atoms. The target area has gotten drastically smaller, thus requiring new technology to be developed to prevent overheating from the stream of beam atoms. The probability of creating elements 120 and 119 have also gotten significantly lower than before and scientists are not entirely sure if these elements can be synthesized. 

However, element 120 may have an intriguing property. The main problem with a lot of these super heavy elements is that they decay in milliseconds, which makes it hard to measure, or determine the chemical properties of the elements. Element 120 might be the start of the next “Island of Stability.” This is where super heavy elements may decay in days or maybe even millions of years. 

The “Island of Stability” is prediction of when a set of heavy nuclei have a magic number of protons and neutrons that temporary reverse the trend of decreasing half-life for elements larger than Uranium. Currently, it is hypothetical whether there is an island of stability around or starting at element 120. Even still, starting a new row on the periodic table will be a phenomenal, and if the island of stability exists then this will be a major breakthrough in chemistry and nuclear physics.