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Sailing toward the island of stability

Creation of six new superheavy isotopes encourages researchers

By
5:13pm, October 21, 2010

Chemists searching for the island of stability now have a better map. Thanks to the discovery of six new variations of the superheavy elements on the bottom rung of the periodic table, scientists are closer to creating elements that are expected to last long enough for in-depth study.

Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California saw the isotopes of rutherfordium, seaborgium, hassium, darmstadtium, and copernicium by watching the decay of the yet-to-be-named element 114, a synthetic element first produced about a decade ago. Each isotope of an element differs in the number of neutrons in its nucleus, a variable that can affect radioactivity and other properties.

The nuclear chemists created a sample of element 114 by bombarding a plutonium target with a beam of calcium ions. As the handful of atoms began to decay — a process that takes less than a tenth of a second — the team saw six previously undiscovered isotopes of other heavy e

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