The 115 technology drive has an attractive design with branding on the front. Its back features finer details such as warranty and connectivity information.
Element 115 only entered the periodic table in 2016 but has attracted extra attention thanks to a UFO-related claim by alleged former Area 51 employee Bob Lazar. He claimed that he had worked on a top-secret project involving alien spacecraft and anti-gravity propulsion technologies.
What is Element 115?
For decades, the element 115 has garnered extra attention from the scientific community because of its supposed connection to alien technology and spacecraft. But the mystery of the elusive substance has never been fully explained, even though a new research paper hints that it may have more practical applications than originally thought.
In a series of experiments at the GSI Helmholtz Center for Heavy Ion Research in Darmstadt, Germany, scientists created a tiny amount of an extremely rare new superheavy element. The scientists were able to create the short-lived, incredibly heavy atoms by firing a beam of calcium (with 20 protons) into a sheet of americium (95 protons). The two nuclei fused together to produce a single atom with 115 protons—the heaviest, most artificially-created element ever seen.
The atoms of element 115 last only a fraction of a second, and they decayed rapidly into still lighter elements. But the chain of radioactive decays, plus the X-rays and gamma rays the short-lived nuclei spat out in their death throes, convinced the scientists that they’d really found something new. According to the rules of the Periodic Table, the new element will be given a name and added to the chart once it’s been independently confirmed in another lab. So far, scientists have only been able to create about 30 atoms of the element. They’ve nicknamed it ununpentium after its atomic number and the letters “u” and “n”.
While this new discovery doesn’t have much practical value in itself, it does help nuclear physicists understand how atoms put together and how they fall apart. Scientists will continue to attempt to make larger batches of the material so that they can observe its properties more thoroughly.
In addition to its alleged alien-technology connections, the element is also featured in the Tomb Raider video game series as one of the crystal meteorite artifacts that Lara Croft retrieves from Area 51. The artifact is rumored to be a power source for alien spacecraft, as described by the infamous Area 51 whistleblower Robert Lazar in the 1980s and 1990s. The government has never confirmed Lazar’s claims, but they do seem to have some validity.
Why is Element 115 so important?
Element 115 is one of the so-called superheavy elements, elements so short-lived they don’t exist naturally but can be created in a laboratory by smashing atoms together. These superheavy elements are more than just scientific curiosities, though: they could help us understand how the other heavier elements in nature formed and even shed light on how the universe came into being itself.
But the challenge is not easy, as physicists have only managed to create short-lived atoms of element 115 a few times before now. This new research, however, could change all that. The scientists behind the study, who work at Lund University in Sweden, have reported creating 30 atoms of the new element, which they call ununpentium (the official name is still under review by the international body that governs chemical names).
They did this by firing an atomic beam of calcium, which has 20 protons, at a thin film of americium, which has 95. Some of the atoms created in this collision fused to form the new element, which then decayed almost immediately into elements with higher atomic numbers. But the researchers were able to track the progression of these decays using a chain of X-ray and gamma ray emissions that the short-lived atoms spat out in their death throes. This helped them establish that the new element was indeed present.
The team’s report, published in Physical Review Letters, shows that they have spotted an isotope of element 115 that is stable for up to two days before decaying into a more stable isotope, nihonium. This is a big milestone, and it gives the team the confidence to say that they have discovered the first ever example of a synthetic element that is longer-lived than its immediate predecessors.
Scientists have also been working on other ways to make elements that don’t disappear in a flash, and they hope that this will eventually lead to the creation of a new kind of element that doesn’t require super-fast particle accelerators to create. For now, though, these elements are still just a bit too short-lived to have much practical use.
What is Element 115’s history?
There’s a lot of mystery around Element 115. The superheavy element has long lingered on the fringes of the periodic table, where it has become a favorite in UFO conspiracy theories and video games. Now, researchers may have actually spotted it. The group led by physicist Dirk Rudolph at Lund University in Sweden has reported creating 30 atoms of the unnamed element, which they dubbed “ununpentium.” The sighting backs up earlier reports from a team in Russia, although the discovery still needs to be verified by an international chemistry committee before it can be officially deemed true.
Seeing this elusive element could help scientists understand how the elements of our world and the universe came to be. But it’s not likely to have much practical use in the near future. As one of the heaviest known elements, its short-lived atoms decay very quickly.
Even so, scientists have been eager to try to create new elements in the lab because they can learn a great deal about the structure of the universe by doing so. In 2004, scientists from the United States and Russia first reported creating Element 115. They created it by firing atoms of calcium at a sheet of americium. The resulting atoms decayed into other, lighter elements. These chains of nuclear reactions gave them clues about the element’s properties.
These scientists also created two other new elements, moscovium and ununtrium, by firing calcium at americium. Moscovium is now part of the periodic table and has an official name—moscovium—as well as the symbol Mc, a nod to the Russian city where the experiments took place. Ununtrium is another new element that was added to the periodic table last year and has the symbol Uu. Both have a short half-life and are radioactive.
While it’s not very useful, the work is important because it shows that there are ways to make new elements. That gives chemists hope for making elements that are longer-lived, which would give them more time to study their chemical properties and maybe find uses for them. In addition, the new elements might provide clues about how other elements are created in nature.
What is Element 115’s future?
As far as humankind knows, no one’s ever seen a real piece of Element 115, but if a new experiment proves successful, it might become possible to make some. Researchers from Lund University in Sweden have created the element by slamming atoms of calcium into those of another element, americium. When the atoms fuse, they produce a flash of radiation that can be measured. This gives scientists a kind of fingerprint to confirm that the atom is actually element 115, Popular Science reports.
This is only the second time an experiment has yielded evidence of the element, which has 115 protons at its core. A team led by the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Russia and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California first claimed to have spotted it in 2004, but they weren’t able to capture its x-ray “fingerprint.” The Swedes were able to do so, which means they’ve now proven that element 115 exists.
They still need to create a longer-lasting version of the element, though. So far, it decays into other, more stable elements in less than a second—first to ununpentium, then to 113 (nihonium), then 117 (tennessine) and finally 118 (oganesson). It could potentially last longer, but it would require a lot of energy to create.
Scientists are hoping to push even further into the superheavy range, too. Their goal is to create an element that won’t disappear in a flash, Popular Science reports. The current record holder is lutetium, which has a fairly long half-life of about three years.
Creating such an element isn’t exactly easy, and it requires the use of massive particle accelerators. However, scientists have made good progress recently. In the past five years, they have eliminated most substantial technical barriers to gene-drive technology, which could someday eradicate malaria and other diseases by altering mosquito genomes. The only hurdle remaining is overcoming the ethical concerns around such a drive, according to experts.