The Super Heavy Chemical Elements of the Periodic Table

Super heavy elements are man made elements produced within laboratories by literally smashing ions of one element into the atoms of another. They are detected by observing the disintegration of the products of these collisions.

Laboratories around the world have produced a number of atoms of different super heavy elements. All of the newly former elements are radioactive with very short half-lives usually measure in milliseconds.

The Super Heavy Element Network (SHE Network) recognizes all elements above atomic number 100 as Super Heavy elements. Element 100 is Fermium which was found in the remnants of one of the atomic bomb tests 1952. This element was made from the combination of a uranium atom with 17 neutrons. The elements above this in the periodic table are also sometimes called the trans-fermium elements. Other groups consider only elements above 103 as super heavy elements and call them trans-actinide elements.

As many laboratories are working on producing these elements there have been disagreements as to the naming of individual elements. In 1964, the Russians working in Dubna announced the production of element 104, which they named Kurchatovium after the former head of Russian Nuclear Research Igor Vasilevich Kurchatov (1903-1960). In 1969, an American team working in Berkeley, California announced the production of a number of isotopes of this element they also stated they were unable to reproduce the Russian studies. They suggested the name Rutherfordium, after the New Zealand Nobel Prize winner Ernest R. Rutherford (1871-1937), for the element. The International Union for Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) has now agreed rutherfordium as the name for element 104.

To prevent such problems IUPAC has introduced a temporary naming system for all new elements. This each number from zero to nine a separate name and by combining these as syllables an elements name is produced. Therefore element 112 is called ununbium and element 118 is ununoctium. Eventually this temporary name is replaced by an agreed name so element 111, which had been known as unununium, became roentgenium. In June 2008, element 112 received official recognition from IUPAC and will henceforth be known as copernicium with the symbol Cp.

Currently elements up to atomic number 118 have been produced with the exception of element 117. The name ununseptium is included in the periodic table as a holding name until one of the collisions succeeds in its production.

The super heavy elements with their short half lives and difficulty in production are unlikely to ever have any economic uses but will remain of scientific interest and study to the groups of scientists around the world. The laboratories around the world currently working on these elements can be found listed on the SHE Network website.