The heaviest element is now called Copernicium

Ceremonial elements baptism yesterday in Darmstadt

View into the 120-meter-long linear accelerator of the GSI, which is used to generate the ion beams. © G.Otto / GSI
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The heaviest chemical element recognized so far now has a name: Yesterday, the element with the atomic number 112 was christened Copernicium. Generation and detection of the massive element with the chemical symbol "Cn" reach an international group of scientists at the Helmholtz Center for Heavy Ion Research (GSI) in Darmstadt for the first time in 1996.

Copernicium is 277 times heavier than hydrogen and the heaviest officially recognized chemical element in the periodic table. The name of the element is used to honor the great astronomer Nicolas Copernicus (1473-1543).

"Since its founding more than 40 years ago, GSI has become one of the world's leading accelerator laboratories for heavy ion research, the greatest achievement of which is undoubtedly the discovery of six new chemical elements, " said the Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) Helge Braun at the ceremonial element baptism.

Basic research in the best sense of the word

"In Darmstadt, basic research takes place in the best sense of the word, " Braun praised the work of the scientists. With the search for new elements, the scientists are researching here for a deeper understanding of the structure of nuclear matter. In doing so they are pursuing the elementary question of which smallest building blocks make up the world in which we live.

"Sigurd Hofmann and his international team have been world leaders in the study of superheavy elements for decades. Today's baptism of Element 112 is further proof of that. GSI will continue the hunt for even heavier elements with improved and new measurement setups to push forward to the end of the periodic table, "says Professor Horst Stoecker, scientific director of GSI. display

Professor Sigurd Hofmann, head of the international discovery team of Element 112. G.Otto / GSI

Premiere in February 1996

The scientists around Hofmann could produce for the first time on 9 February 1996 an atom of the element Copernicium. With the GSI accelerator facility, which is over one hundred meters long, they fired a lead foil with charged zinc atoms, so-called zinc ions. By merging the atomic nuclei of the two elements, a new atom was created, the element 112. This atom is only stable for fractions of a second. The radiation emitted by the decay of the element was used by the scientists to identify the new element.

The discovery of the element was subsequently confirmed in independent experiments at other research institutions. Last year, IUPAC, the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry, finally acknowledged the existence of Element 112. She gave the team at the GSI Helmholtz Center the right to discover and asked the researchers to propose a name.

Where does the periodic table end?

With the designation of element 112, the GSI scientists have now given a name to the sixth of the elements they have discovered. The other five were named as follows: Bohrium for Element 107, Hassium for Element 108, Meitnerium for Element 109, Darmstadtium for Element 110, and Roentgenium for Element 111,

The scientists at GSI want to find out which is the heaviest element ever and where the periodic table ends. In this way, they can gain basic insights into the structure of matter and the formation of the elements as a prerequisite for our lives.

(idw - Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) / GSI Helmholtz Center for Heavy Ion Research, 13.07.2010 - DLO)