How was ununoctium created and what do we use it for?

23 January 2012


�How was ununoctium created and what do we use it for?


Ununoctium is a super heavy element - actually, it's the heaviest all the elements. This means that its nucleus has the most protons out of all elements man has discovered. This is important because all protons have a positive electrostatic charge, which causes all protons to push away from one another due to electostatic forces (these are the same forces that allows you to pick up pieces of paper with a comb you have run through your hair). The large number of protons in its nucleus make Ununoctium atoms highly unstable. What so I mean by unstable? Well, like I said, protons want to repel each other due to their positive charge, and it is only the action of a different force, called the strong nuclear force, that keeps atomic nuclei together. For smaller atoms, such as Carbon with 6 protons, the number of protons is small enough that the strong nuclear force does a good job of keeping the nuclei glued together. Ununoctium, however, has 118 protons in its nucleus. The larger number of protons is too much for the strong nuclear force to handle. The repulsive electrostatic force takes over splitting the nucleus apart in a process known as nuclear decay only a short time after it is created. In fact, when it was first created, Ununoctium existed for less than 1/1000th of a second before breaking apart! As you might expect, this makes it impractical to use Ununoctium for anything and is only of interest to researchers (at the moment). If Ununoctium is so unstable, how was it even made? Well, it was made artificially in a laboratory by smashing two atoms together! Physicists took two lighter elements: Calcium, with 20 protons and Californium, with 98 protons, and made Ununoctium with 118 protons. They got the Calcium atoms moving so fast that when they hit the Californium atoms, they were able to overcome the repulsive forces between the protons in the nuclei and got close enough for the strong nuclear force to take over. This process, called fusion, has been responsible for the discovery of a number of heavy elements.

Answered By: mneuert


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