Scientists Increase Stability of Bohrium

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Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory scientists have come one step closer to understanding a chemical element discovered at Berkeley, according to research published today.

In an article in the journal Nature, Lawrence Berkeley scientists, along with scientists from the University of Bern and the Paul Scherrer Institute in Switzerland, said they were able to the increase the stability of Bohrium 107, a normally unstable element.

UC Berkeley researchers worked last year to create an isotope of the element Bohrium that would be stable enough for scientists to examine. They said they hope to discover its properties and see if they correspond with those of the other elements in Bohrium's periodic group.

By bombarding the element Berkeleium with atoms of Neon 22 one at a time, scientists created the isotope Bohrium 267.

No isotope as heavy as Bohrium 267 had ever been sustained for as long as these scientists managed to stabilize the new isotope, said lab spokesperson Paul Preuss.

"They determined some of the characteristics of this very heavy element," he said. "It lasts 15 to 17 seconds. That's the longest-lived isotope (of that large a weight) that has ever been created."

Philip Wilk, a graduate student in the department of chemistry and one of the researchers on the project, said that in order to make Bohrium with a half-life long enough to be observed, it had to be created one atom at a time, a very tedious process.

"It was incredibly difficult chemistry to do because you're doing it one atom at a time," he said. "We saw less than ten atoms total. It's very tricky to do chemistry on an atom-to-atom basis."

UC Berkeley scientists took their research to Switzerland, where they collaborated with Swiss scientists to examine Bohrium 267 for its distinct properties and its relationship to the other elements in its group, Wilk said.

"(Doing this research allows us) to make predictions of the chemistry of these other elements," he said. "If we find out that it deviates from what we expect, we can go back and modify the experiment."

Wilk said he was pleasantly surprised that the findings revealed precisely what the scientists predicted they would.

"(The results turned out to be) somewhat expected," he said. "(Bohrium 267) falls into its periodic trend and more specifically, how it relates to other Group Seven elements. It behaves how it was predicted to, which is very interesting."

Joshua Patin, another graduate student who worked on the project, said he was excited at the prospect of continuing in the footsteps of periodic table pioneer and Nobel prize-winning UC Berkeley scientist Glen Seaborg by expanding his vision of the table to include those man-made elements not yet created when Seaborg died.

"To see some of the visions he had, where these elements should be placed (is very exhilarating)," he said. "We run experiments on something they didn't have and it still holds true."


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