Element 110 to be named tomorrow
Chemists meet in Ottawa
to vote on 'darmstadtium'.
15 August 2003
|Researchers fused lead and nickel nuclei to make
Chemical element 110, which was discovered in 1994, will finally get
a name tomorrow.
A committee will vote at this weekend's General Assembly of the International
Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) in Ottawa, Canada. It is expected
to approve the element's informal moniker, 'darmstadtium', and give it
the chemical symbol Ds. The title honours the Laboratory for Heavy Ion
Research (called GSI) in Darmstadt, Germany, where the substance was first
The natural elements run out at number 92, uranium. Several more have
been made artificially since 1939, when researchers at the University of
California at Berkeley bombarded uranium with a beam of neutrons to create
element 93, which they called neptunium.
Firing subatomic particles at heavy atoms became the preferred method
of making new elements. The basic aim is to add more protons to the atomic
nuclei - an element is defined by the number of protons its atoms contain.
Some new elements were also detected in the fallout from nuclear bomb tests
in the 1950s.
Element-making soon became a race. In the 1960s and 1970s the two main
players were a Soviet group at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research
in Dubna and a team spanning the University of California and the Lawrence
Berkeley National Laboratory. The discoverers of a new element generally
win the right to name it, although the new name still has to receive IUPAC
The natural elements run out around
But disputes over claimed sightings of new elements have led to acrimonious
and nationalistic battles over naming. These elements decay quickly, and
are often made only a few atoms at a time - so it can be hard to gather
In 1987 IUPAC was forced to assess priority claims over all the new
elements from 104 to 107. Then in 1993 a new controversy erupted when the
Berkeley team wanted to name element 106 after nuclear-chemistry pioneer
Glenn Seaborg. IUPAC insisted at first that 'seaborgium' broke the rules,
because Seaborg was still alive at that time. It relented only after the
American Chemical Society threatened rebellion.
No one disputes GSI's claim to element 110. There was, however, some
relief when the German results, produced by fusing lead and nickel nuclei,
were confirmed last June at Berkeley using the same process1.
Element-hunters have been more cautious since a Berkeley team was forced
to retract unreproducible data published in support of a reported 1999
creation of element 118.