Friday, May 2, 2014

Further Evidence of Element 117

Physical Review Letters just published a paper in which an international group in Germany claimed to have repeated the 2010 results of the synthesis of element 117 (E117) by bombarding berkelium with a calcium beam (synopsis available here). Berkelium can currently only be produced by the Oak Ridge National Lab in Tennessee, and even they don't always synthesize it, so this type of experiment isn't that easy to do.

In the paper, the evidence of the existence of E117 relies on observing a small number of decay events. There's plenty of interesting nuclear physics, including the discovery of a previously unknown isotope of lawrencium, but don't expect any chemistry for the foreseeable future.

Nevertheless, if I may be so bold allow me predict that E117 will be essentially entirely metallic with little to no halogen character. Its spin-orbit coupling will be so extreme that it will only be possible to describe it with a j-j like scheme, and as such it will have almost no similarity to the halogens fluorine through iodine. For more on this, see my posts on astatine, especially Astatine: Halogen or Metal? Part 3: Electronic Structure Calculations. Anything that applies to astatine will apply even more strongly to E117.