Controversy-plagued Element 118, the heaviest atom yet, finally discovered

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Theoretical electron structure of ununoctium. Very little about this element is yet known.

Element 118 has been created in experiments conducted in Dubna, Russia by a collaboration of researchers from Russia's Joint Institute for Nuclear Research and from the United States' Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

The reaction, producing three atoms of element 118, the heaviest element yet found, through collisions that fused together Californium and Calcium atoms, was observed at Dubna. Although element 118 is too unstable to detect directly, the presence of daughter elements resulting from the decay of element 118 gave clues to its fleeting existence. The discovery was reported in the American Physical Society journal Physical Review C on October 9, 2006.

Researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory previously reported the synthesis of element 118 in 1999, and later retracted their results when subsequent experiments failed to confirm their discovery. It was alleged that a lead researcher, Victor Ninov, fabricated the experimental data that indicated the formation of three element 118 atoms.