Pushing the boundaries of chemistry: Properties of heaviest element studied so far measured at GSI/FAIR

Superheavy element 114 (flerovium) is a volatile metal

An international research team has succeeded in gaining new insights into the chemical properties of the superheavy element flerovium - element 114 - at the accelerator facilities of the GSI Helmholtz Center for Heavy Ion Research in Darmstadt. The measurements show that flerovium is the most volatile metal in the periodic table.
Flerovium is thus the heaviest element in the periodic table that has been chemically studied.

Figure 1.: Experimental setup at the TASCA separator and the registered deposition pattern of the eight flerovium atoms (288,289Fl) together with those of lead (186Pb), mercury (182-184Hg), and radon (219Rn) in the COMPACT chromatography channel.

Under the leadership of groups from Darmstadt and Mainz, the two longest-lived flerovium isotopes currently known, flerovium-288 and flerovium-289, were produced using the accelerator facilities at GSI/FAIR and were chemically investigated at the TASCA experimental setup. In the periodic table, flerovium is placed below the heavy metal lead. However, early predictions had postulated that relativistic effects of the high charge in the nucleus of the superheavy element on its valence electrons would lead to noble gas-like behavior, while more recent ones had rather suggested a weakly metallic behavior. To date, its interaction with gold was investigated in two gas-solid chromatography experiments, which reported two different types of interaction, however, each based on a level of a few registered atoms only. Whereas noble-gas-like properties were suggested from the first experiment performed in Dubna (Eichler et al., Radiochim. Acta 2010), the second one, performed at GSI (Yakushev et al., Inorg. Chem. 2016) pointed at a volatile-metal-like character. The two experiments were unable to clearly establish the character. To elucidate the chemical character, further experimental data on the adsorption of Fl on silicon oxide and gold surfaces were obtained at GSI. The analysis of the full data set has now been published (A. Yakushev et al., Front. Chem. 10, 976635 (2022)). The new results show that, as expected, flerovium is inert but capable of forming stronger chemical bonds than noble gases, if conditions are suitable. Flerovium is consequently the most volatile metal in the periodic table.

Figure 2.: Dr. Alexander Yakushev, spokesperson of the experiment, and Dr. Lotte Lens are fine-tuning the data acquisition system for the registration of flerovium atoms. The vacuum chamber containing the COMPACT chromatography channel can be seen in front; in the upper right background, the last red magnet from the TASCA separator is visible.
Photo/©: G. Otto / GSI

More Info:

  • Joint press release of GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research, Helmholtz Institute Mainz and Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (pdf-file; German / English)

  • Publication:

Alexander Yakushev1,2*, Lotte Lens1,3, Christoph E. Düllmann1,2,3, Jadambaa Khuyagbaatar1,2, Egon Jäger1, Jörg Krier1, Jörg Runke1,3, Helena M. Albers1, Masato Asai4, Michael Block1,2,3, John Despotopulos5, Antonio Di Nitto1,3, Klaus Eberhardt3, Ulrika Forsberg6, Pavel Golubev6, Michael Götz1,2,3, Stefan Götz1,2,3, Hiromitsu Haba7, Laura Harkness-Brennan8, Rolf Dietrich Herzberg8, Fritz Peter Heßberger1,2, David Hinde9, Annett Hübner1, Daniel Judson8, Birgit Kindler1, Y. Komori7, Joonas Konki10, Jens Volker Kratz3, Nikolaus Kurz1, Mustapha Laatiaoui1,2,3, Susanta Lahiri11, Bettina Lommel1, Moumita Maiti12, Andrew Mistry1,2, Christoph Mokry2,3, Ken J. Moody5, Yuichiro Nagame4, Jon Petter Omtvedt13, Philippos Papadakis8, Valeria Pershina1, Dirk Rudolph6, Luis G. Samiento6, Tetsuya K. Sato4, Matthias Schädel1, Paul Scharrer1,2,3, Brigitta Schausten1, Dawn A. Shaughnessy5, Jutta Steiner1, Petra Thörle-Pospiech2,3, Atsushi Toyoshima4, Norbert Trautmann3, Kazuaki Tsukada4, Juha Uusitalo10, Kay-Obbe Voss1, Andrew Ward8, M. Wegrzecki14, Norbert Wiehl2,3, Elizabeth Williams9, and Vera Yakusheva1,2
On the Adsorption and Reactivity of Element 114, Flerovium
Front. Chem. 10, 976635 (2022)

*Corresponding author

Involved Institutes
  1. GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung GmbH, Darmstadt, Germany
  2. Helmholtz-Institut Mainz, Mainz, Germany
  3. Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Mainz, Germany
  4. Japan Atomic Energy Agency, Tokai, Japan
  5. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, CA, United States
  6. Lund University, Lund, Sweden
  7. RIKEN, Wako, Japan
  8. University of Liverpool, Liverpool, United Kingdom
  9. Australian National University, Canberra, ACT, Australia
  10. University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland
  11. Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics, Kolkata, India
  12. Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee, Roorkee, India
  13. University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway
  14. Łukasiewicz Research Network—Institute of Electron Technology, Warsaw, Poland