Wednesday, February 24, 2010

New element copernicium added to periodic table

Discovered 13 years ago, the substance previously known as element 112 was only officially added to the table a few weeks ago.

It is the heaviest element in the periodic table, 277 times heavier than hydrogen. It is produced by a nuclear fusion, bombarding zinc ions onto a lead target.

As the element already decays after a split second, its existence can only be proved with the help of extremely fast and sensitive analysis methods.

With the symbol Cp, it has been named in honour of Copernicus who deduced that the planets revolved around the Sun, and finally refuted the belief that the Earth was the centre of the Universe. The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) will officially endorse the new element's name in six month's time in order to give the scientific community "time to discuss the suggestion".

There are 118 elements currently in the table.

Scientists from the Centre for Heavy Ion Research in Germany, led by Professor Sigurd Hofmann, discovered copernicium in fusion experiments in 1996.

"After IUPAC officially recognised our discovery, we agreed on proposing the name because we would like to honour an outstanding scientist," said Professor Hofmann.

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