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Element of mystery: Will periodic table get new resident?

A new superheavy element has been confirmed after experiments by Swedish scientists. It may soon get an official name and join its buddies at the periodic table.

Periodic table
This periodic table has been saving a space for element 115.

The periodic table of the elements may be welcoming a new member to its elite group soon. A team of scientists led by researchers at Lund University in Sweden has confirmed the existence of a new element. The super-heavy element has atomic number 115.

The team built on earlier work by Russian research groups. The experiment used to confirm the new element took place at a lab in Germany. It involved taking a thin film of americium, a radioactive element with atomic number 95, and bombarding it with calcium ions. This allowed the scientists to measure the element's photons and confirm its atomic number.

"This was a very successful experiment and is one of the most important in the field in recent years," says Dirk Rudolph, a nuclear physics professor at Lund University.

The new element has not been named yet, though earlier work gave it the temporary name of "ununpentium." The next step is a review process by an international committee of scientists who will either recommend its inclusion on the periodic table or request more experiments.

Once the element is acknowledged, the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry will invite scientists to name the element and it will take its place on the table.

If element 115 ends up officially joining the periodic table, it will slot in right between recent additions livermorium (114) and flerovium (116). The findings are published in the Physical Review Letters journal.