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The hunt for superheavy elements is a periodic opportunity
Pyykko's periodic table of the elements extended to z=172
The hunt for superheavy elements is a periodic opportunity
by Simon Mansfield
Sydney, Australia (SPX) Mar 20, 2024

International research teams from Massey University, the University of Mainz, Sorbonne University, and the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams (FRIB) have made notable strides in understanding superheavy elements, reshaping the concept of the periodic table's "island of stability." Their work, featured on the cover of February 2024's Nature Review Physics, alongside a related review in Physics Reports, delves into the atomic electronic structure theory of these elusive elements.

Superheavy elements, defined by nuclei containing over 103 protons, reside in a largely unexplored domain of the periodic table, offering a rich field for scientific discovery across various disciplines. The quest to expand the periodic table and the Chart of the Nuclides hinges on the exploration of these elements, pushing the limits of atomic number and mass.

Recent developments in experimental facilities aim to unveil the properties of atoms with a high number of electrons, protons, and neutrons. These studies have revealed deviations in physical and chemical behaviors from their lighter counterparts, raising questions about the potential expansion of the periodic table and the existence of a "peninsula of extended stability" for superheavy nuclei.

The advancement of atomic structure theory has been crucial in understanding superheavy elements, particularly their electronic ground state configurations which influence their placement within the periodic table. Witek Nazarewicz, a leading scientist at FRIB, emphasized the unique challenges presented by superheavy atoms, noting the near-light-speed movement of electrons due to immense electrostatic forces and the emergence of new effects from strong Coulomb forces within their nuclei.

FRIB researchers are at the forefront of this exploration, employing advanced models, high-performance computing, and machine learning to predict the properties of unmeasured superheavy nuclei and identify pathways to nuclei near the region of enhanced stability.

This collaborative effort not only deepens our understanding of the periodic table and nuclear landscape in the superheavy region but also promises to inspire new methodologies and insights across nuclear and atomic physics, astrophysics, and chemistry.

The quest for superheavy elements continues to challenge our understanding of the fundamental limits of the periodic table.

Research Report:Pushing the limits of the periodic table - A review on atomic relativistic electronic structure theory and calculations for the superheavy elements

Related Links
Facility for Rare Isotope Beams
Space Technology News - Applications and Research

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