Remember Your Chemistry Classes?
August 11, 2014

The 46 human chromosomes, where DNA lives and does its work.
The 46 human chromosomes, where DNA lives and does its work.

An international team of researchers recently reported creation of a new element that is 40 percent heavier than lead.

The researchers successfully developed what they are calling Element Number 117 at a laboratory in Germany. It is identified by that number because its nucleus contains that same number of particles --called protons. Element Number 117 has a temporary name -- ununseptium.

If you remember your chemistry classes in school, you will recall that about 90 elements in the Periodic Table are found in nature. But others that were created in laboratories appear only in very small amounts.

The Periodic Table lines up -- or organizes -- chemical elements in order of atomic number. The elements made in laboratories -- such as 117 -- are extremely unstable. They last only minutes before breaking down into long-lasting elements.

Creation of new elements helps scientists better-understand the chemistry and physics of atoms. But such production may also lead to the discovery of new technologies.

Russian and other scientists had reported the creation of Element 117 in 2010. But the group that confirms new elements requires at least two successful independent experiments to confirm their existence. That group -- the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry -- will give the element a permanent name.

A report on the new element appears in the journal Physical Review Letters.

This story was narrated by Anna Matteo and Christopher Cruise. It was written in Special English by Jerilyn Watson from a story by VOA reporter George Putic in Washington.