Japan identifies new heavy element

Sept. 26, 2012 at 7:54 PM
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TOKYO, Sept. 26 (UPI) -- Japanese researchers say they've conclusively identified the elusive 113th atomic element, setting the stage for Japan to claim naming rights for the element.

A chain of six consecutive alpha decays produced in experiments at the RIKEN Radioisotope Beam Factory near Tokyo conclusively identifies the element, the researchers reported Wednesday.

Superheavy 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.

On Aug. 12, experiments at the RIKEN Linear Accelerator Facility produced a very heavy ion followed by a chain of six consecutive alpha decays identified as products of an isotope of the 113th element.

The team says its discovery of the six-step decay chain promises to clinch their claim to naming rights for the 113th element.

"For over nine years, we have been searching for data conclusively identifying element 113, and now that at last we have it, it feels like a great weight has been lifted from our shoulders," associate chief scientist Kosuke Morita said.

"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."

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