22 milligrams is equal to about 7 ten-thousandths of an ounce. That’s how much of a synthetic (man-made) material was used in the discovery of 2 new chemical elements that will help fill out the seventh row of the periodic table.
That synthetic material, berkelium-249, was produced in a project at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. That product was separated and processed during a 3-month period at the Oak Ridge Lab’s Radiochemical Engineering Development Center. The berkelium-249 was then shipped to the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (JINR), in Dubna, Russia, where it was bombarded with calcium-48 ions, creating six atoms of element 117 – one of the new elements!
What are ions? Ions are atoms with extra electrons or missing electrons. When you are missing an electron or two, you have a positive charge. When you have an extra electron or two, you have a negative charge.
The other three elements that have also been officially verified by the International Union for Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) are elements 113, 115, and 118. Element 115 is produced when element 117 decays. The four new elements fill out the seventh row, or period, of the periodic table. The last time new elements were added to the periodic table was in 2011, when elements 114 (flerovium, or Fl) and element 116 (livermorium or Lv) were added.
Scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have been invited to submit names and symbols for the new elements.
Jim Roberto, ORNL associate lab director for science and technology partnerships, says “The discovery of new elements is actually very exciting on a number of different levels, and what we have done with our partners is change the periodic table, and we have changed every high school chemistry book.”
We have a lucky connection to this discovery! Mrs. Sindt, EY teacher at Rockbrook and Hillside, has a brother who is the Isotope Production Manager at Oak Ridge National Lab. His name is John Krueger and he is an alum of Hillside Elementary and Westside High School!
Think of a question you have about this discovery, or about science in general, that you’d like to ask him. E-mail your question to your EY coordinator and she will make sure it gets to Mr. Krueger, who will then e-mail you back through Mrs. Sindt.
Videos to watch for further explanation:
Some of my Rockbrook 5th graders asked John Krueger questions and received some very detailed, interesting responses.
See the questions and responses here.