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Naming an atomic heavyweight

International body approves the name "copernicium" for element 112

5:06pm, February 25, 2010

There’s a new heavy in town. Element 112, a “superheavy” element with an atomic mass of 278, has been officially named copernicium, the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry announced February 19. It is the heaviest named element to date.

Scientists hope the new element is a stepping stone toward the predicted “island of stability,” a region of the periodic table where researchers expect to find new superheavy elements. These new elements may last longer than a few seconds—most heavy elements are unstable—and might be exploited for purposes still unknown.

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