Saturday, November 19, 2011

Scientists launch international competition to create the heaviest element ever

While much of the world spends its evenings watching dancers, singers, and trivia junkies battle it out in front of live studio audiences, teams of scientists from all corners of the earth are engaged in a much more heated competition. Their goal? To be the first to create the heaviest elements in the universe — and gain all the scientific fame and fortune that such a discovery brings.

The two weighty elements in question are numbers 119 and 120 on the periodic table, with those numeric values equalling the number of protons their atoms contain. It may sound like a complicated task, and while the science behind creating new elements is complex, the basic concept is rather straightforward. In order to create element 119, researchers are slamming a titanium metal plate with atoms of the element berkelium, hoping that titanium's 22 protons and berkelium's 97 protons will combine to create an atom with 119 protons.
The two frontrunners in the competition are a team comprised of scientists from the United States, Japan, Norway, and several Western European countries and a team of American and Russian researchers working out of a lab in Russia. Unfortunately, even if a single atom of a new super-heavy element is created, the procedure must be verified by an independent laboratory before a winner is declare — a process that could take decades. But for the bright minds working day and night to get their names in the history books, the wait is probably worth it.

No comments: