What is Ununbium?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ununbium is a chemical element classified among the transactinide group on the periodic table of elements, making it one of the heaviest elements known to man. Little is known about ununbium, since the element must be synthetically produced in a lab to be studied. The prohibitive cost of synthetic production makes it unlikely that a commercial use will be developed for this element, although scientists continue to research it in the hopes of learning more about it.

The periodic table is a table of the chemical elements in which the elements are arranged by order of atomic number.
The periodic table is a table of the chemical elements in which the elements are arranged by order of atomic number.

The chemical properties of this element are not really understood. Given the patterns which govern the periodic table of elements, scientists expect the metal to behave like a metal such as cadmium or mercury. However, in experiments, ununbium has behaved more like a noble gas, leading scientists to be unsure about whether the element is a gas or a metal. It is certainly radioactive, as are other transactinides, and it is also unstable, existing for only brief periods of time before decaying into the form of a more stable element.

Credit for the discovery of this element has not quite been settled yet. It appears that the credit will go to a team of researchers in Darmstadt, Germany, led by Peter Armbruster and Sigurd Hoffmann. The men managed to produce an atom of the element in 1996 by colliding zinc and lead in a linear accelerator, and they successfully repeated the experiment in 2000. The discovery was later confirmed by a team of Japanese researchers in 2004.

As of 2008, the name of this element is also up for grabs. The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) has temporarily decreed “ununbium” as a name, using a systematic element naming system which is derived from the atomic weight of each element; ununbium has an atomic number of 112, and “ununbi” means “one one two” in Latin. For now, the element is identified with the symbol Uub on the periodic table; it may take a decade or more for the IUPAC to determine who gets the credit for discovery and the honor of proposing a name.

Researchers hope that by studying super heavy elements like ununbium, they can learn more about the structure of the periodic table and the sciences. Such studies are limited by the short lived and radioactive nature of these elements; these traits make them very hard to research.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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