The atom, which has an atomic number of 115, is one of the heaviest chemical
elements detected to date and does not occur naturally.
Instead scientists had to synthesis it in the laboratory by bombarding a film
of another heavy element known as americium with calcium ions.
The resulting element lasted for just a fraction of a second before it
decaying into more commonly found elements.
Although it has yet to be officially named, Element 115 has the temporary name
Conspiracy theorists have in the past claimed that ununpentium was part of
technology used by UFOs and it has also featured heavily in computer games
as a source for weapons.
However, in reality the uses for the new element, which is highly unstable and
so short lived, are likely to be extremely limited.
The new findings must now be assessed by a panel of international experts who
will decide whether it can be included in the periodic table.
Ununpentium is one of a number of elements that were theoretically thought to
It was first created in 2004 by a team of Russian and American scientists but
the evidence was deemed insufficient for it to be officially classified as a
The latest experiments to prove the existence of Element 115 were conducted at
Lund University in Sweden.
Professor Dirk Rudolph, who led the work at the division of atomic physics at
Lund University, said he hoped it would now allow the element to be included
in the periodic table.
Their findings are published in the journal Physical
He said: “This was a very successful experiment and is one of the most
important in the field in recent years.
“There are three isotopes of element 115 thought to be known or observed:
Those with 172, 173, and 174 neutrons in the nucleus – 287-115, 288-115 and
“Based on the data from the 288-115 nuclei, this isotope has a half-life
of 160 milliseconds.”
The researchers were able to detect Element 115 by looking for a distinctive
fingerprint in the X-ray radiation it gave off.
New elements are assessed by members of the International Union of Pure and
Applied Chemistry and the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics.
In 2011 they approved the names of three new elements that have the atomic
numbers 110, 111 and 112. These were named darmstadtium
(Ds), roentgenium (Rg) and copernicium (Cn).
The most recently approved element was Livermorium, which has the atomic
number 116 and had its name adopted in May 2012.
Element 115 currently has the temporary atomic symbol of Uup and s around 289
times heavier than hydrogen, the lightest in the Periodic Table.
The name ununpentium is derived from the digits 115, where un represents the
Latin for unum.
If approved it is likely to be given another name as it is the original
discoverer who gets to name an element.
In this case it will be Sergie Dmitriev from the Flerov Laboratory of Nuclear
Reactions in Dubna, Russia.
Ununpentium makes regular appearances in the Call of Duty computer games where
it is used to power weapons and teleporters.
It also appeared in Tomb Raider 3 as part of a meteorite collected by Lara
Ununpentium was also claimed by UFO conspiracy theorists to be a component in
gravity wave generators used by aliens.
Scientists, however, can say little about the properties of the element as it
is too short lived.
Professor Dirk added: “Given the production rate – let’s say, two atoms
per day – practical implications are far fetched.
“Concerning the natural occurence, there are speculations that in the
course of stellar supernova explosions the astrophysical rapid-neutron
capture process may lead to superheavy elements just at or just short of
this neutron number 184.
“So in a sense yes, possibly in outer space – while if they had been part
of the solar system they most likely had decayed by today.”
The most likely implication will be the need to update chemistry text books
and adding some new lyrics to the famous song about the Periodic Table
learned by schoolchildren around the world.
Back to top