Physics:Transuranium element

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Short description: Element whose atomic number is greater than 92
Transuranium elements
in the periodic table
Hydrogen Helium
Lithium Beryllium Boron Carbon Nitrogen Oxygen Fluorine Neon
Sodium Magnesium Aluminium Silicon Phosphorus Sulfur Chlorine Argon
Potassium Calcium Scandium Titanium Vanadium Chromium Manganese Iron Cobalt Nickel Copper Zinc Gallium Germanium Arsenic Selenium Bromine Krypton
Rubidium Strontium Yttrium Zirconium Niobium Molybdenum Technetium Ruthenium Rhodium Palladium Silver Cadmium Indium Tin Antimony Tellurium Iodine Xenon
Caesium Barium Lanthanum Cerium Praseodymium Neodymium Promethium Samarium Europium Gadolinium Terbium Dysprosium Holmium Erbium Thulium Ytterbium Lutetium Hafnium Tantalum Tungsten Rhenium Osmium Iridium Platinum Gold Mercury (element) Thallium Lead Bismuth Polonium Astatine Radon
Francium Radium Actinium Thorium Protactinium Uranium Neptunium Plutonium Americium Curium Berkelium Californium Einsteinium Fermium Mendelevium Nobelium Lawrencium Rutherfordium Dubnium Seaborgium Bohrium Hassium Meitnerium Darmstadtium Roentgenium Copernicium Nihonium Flerovium Moscovium Livermorium Tennessine Oganesson
Z > 92 (U)

The transuranium elements (also known as transuranic elements) are the chemical elements with atomic numbers greater than 92, which is the atomic number of uranium. All of them are radioactively unstable and decay into other elements. With the exception of neptunium and plutonium which have been found in trace amounts in nature, none occur naturally on Earth and they are synthetic.


Periodic table with elements colored according to the half-life of their most stable isotope.
  Elements which contain at least one stable isotope.
  Slightly radioactive elements: the most stable isotope is very long-lived, with a half-life of over two million years.
  Significantly radioactive elements: the most stable isotope has half-life between 800 and 34,000 years.
  Radioactive elements: the most stable isotope has half-life between one day and 130 years.
  Highly radioactive elements: the most stable isotope has half-life between several minutes and one day.
  Extremely radioactive elements: the most stable isotope has half-life less than several minutes.

Of the elements with atomic numbers 1 to 92, most can be found in nature, having stable isotopes (such as hydrogen) or very long-lived radioisotopes (such as uranium), or existing as common decay products of the decay of uranium and thorium (such as radon). The exceptions are elements 43, 61, 85, and 87; all four occur in nature, but only in very minor branches of the uranium and thorium decay chains, and thus all save element 87 were first discovered by synthesis in the laboratory rather than in nature.

All the elements with higher atomic numbers have been first discovered in the laboratory, with neptunium and plutonium later also discovered in nature. They are all radioactive, with a half-life much shorter than the age of the Earth, so any primordial atoms of these elements, if they ever were present at the Earth's formation, have long since decayed. Trace amounts of neptunium and plutonium form in some uranium-rich rock, and small amounts are produced during atmospheric tests of nuclear weapons. These two elements are generated from neutron capture in uranium ore with subsequent beta decays (e.g. 238U + n239U239Np239Pu).

All elements heavier than plutonium are entirely synthetic; they are created in nuclear reactors or particle accelerators. The half lives of these elements show a general trend of decreasing as atomic numbers increase. There are exceptions, however, including several isotopes of curium and dubnium. Some heavier elements in this series, around atomic numbers 110–114, are thought to break the trend and demonstrate increased nuclear stability, comprising the theoretical island of stability.[1]

Heavy transuranic elements are difficult and expensive to produce, and their prices increase rapidly with atomic number. As of 2008, the cost of weapons-grade plutonium was around $4,000/gram,[2] and californium exceeded $60,000,000/gram.[3] Einsteinium is the heaviest element that has been produced in macroscopic quantities.[4]

Transuranic elements that have not been discovered, or have been discovered but are not yet officially named, use IUPAC's systematic element names. The naming of transuranic elements may be a source of controversy.

Discovery and naming of transuranium elements

So far, essentially all the transuranium elements have been discovered at four laboratories: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in the United States (elements 93–101, 106, and joint credit for 103–105), the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Russia (elements 102 and 114–118, and joint credit for 103–105), the GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research in Germany (elements 107–112), and RIKEN in Japan (element 113).

  • The Radiation Laboratory (now Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory) at the University of California, Berkeley, led principally by Edwin McMillan, Glenn Seaborg, and Albert Ghiorso, during 1945-1974:
    • 93. neptunium, Np, named after the planet Neptune, as it follows uranium and Neptune follows Uranus in the planetary sequence (1940).
    • 94. plutonium, Pu, named after the then-planet Pluto,[lower-alpha 1] following the same naming rule as it follows neptunium and Pluto follows Neptune in the Solar System (1940).
    • 95. americium, Am, named because it is an analog to europium, and so was named after the continent where it was first produced (1944).
    • 96. curium, Cm, named after Pierre and Marie Curie, famous scientists who separated out the first radioactive elements (1944), as its lighter analog gadolinium was named after Johan Gadolin.
    • 97. berkelium, Bk, named after the city of Berkeley, where the University of California, Berkeley is located (1949).
    • 98. californium, Cf, named after the state of California , where the university is located (1950).
    • 99. einsteinium, Es, named after the theoretical physicist Albert Einstein (1952).
    • 100. fermium, Fm, named after Enrico Fermi, the physicist who produced the first controlled chain reaction (1952).
    • 101. mendelevium, Md, named after the Russia n chemist Dmitri Mendeleev, credited for being the primary creator of the periodic table of the chemical elements (1955).
    • 102. nobelium, No, named after Alfred Nobel (1958). The element was originally claimed by a team at the Nobel Institute in Sweden (1957) – though it later became apparent that the Swedish team had not discovered the element, the LBNL team decided to adopt their name nobelium. This discovery was also claimed by the JINR, which doubted the LBNL claim, and named the element joliotium (Jl) after Frédéric Joliot-Curie (1965). IUPAC concluded that the JINR had been the first to convincingly synthesise the element (1965), but retained the name nobelium as deeply entrenched in the literature.
    • 103. lawrencium, Lr, named after Ernest O. Lawrence, a physicist best known for development of the cyclotron, and the person for whom the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (which hosted the creation of these transuranium elements) are named (1961). This discovery was also claimed by the JINR (1965), which doubted the LBNL claim and proposed the name rutherfordium (Rf) after Ernest Rutherford. IUPAC concluded that credit should be shared, retaining the name lawrencium as entrenched in the literature.
    • 104. rutherfordium, Rf, named after Ernest Rutherford, who was responsible for the concept of the atomic nucleus (1969). This discovery was also claimed by the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (JINR) in Dubna, Russia (then the Soviet Union), led principally by Georgy Flyorov: they named the element kurchatovium (Ku), after Igor Kurchatov. IUPAC concluded that credit should be shared, and adopted the LBNL name rutherfordium.
    • 105. dubnium, Db, an element that is named after the city of Dubna, where the JINR is located. Originally named hahnium (Ha) in honor of Otto Hahn by the Berkeley group (1970). This discovery was also claimed by the JINR, which named it nielsbohrium (Ns) after Niels Bohr. IUPAC concluded that credit should be shared, and renamed the element dubnium to honour the JINR team.
    • 106. seaborgium, Sg, named after Glenn T. Seaborg. This name caused controversy because Seaborg was still alive, but eventually became accepted by international chemists (1974). This discovery was also claimed by the JINR. IUPAC concluded that the Berkeley team had been the first to convincingly synthesise the element.
  • The Gesellschaft für Schwerionenforschung (Society for Heavy Ion Research) in Darmstadt, Hessen, Germany, led principally by Gottfried Münzenberg, Peter Armbruster, and Sigurd Hofmann, during 1980-2000:
    • 107. bohrium, Bh, named after the Danish physicist Niels Bohr, important in the elucidation of the structure of the atom (1981). This discovery was also claimed by the JINR. IUPAC concluded that the GSI had been the first to convincingly synthesise the element. The GSI team had originally proposed nielsbohrium (Ns) to resolve the naming dispute on element 105, but this was changed by IUPAC as there was no precedent for using a scientist's first name in an element name.
    • 108. hassium, Hs, named after the Latin form of the name of Hessen, the German Bundesland where this work was performed (1984). This discovery was also claimed by the JINR. IUPAC concluded that the GSI had been the first to convincingly synthesise the element, while acknowledging the pioneering work at the JINR.
    • 109. meitnerium, Mt, named after Lise Meitner, an Austrian physicist who was one of the earliest scientists to study nuclear fission (1982).
    • 110. darmstadtium, Ds, named after Darmstadt, Germany, the city in which this work was performed (1994). This discovery was also claimed by the JINR, which proposed the name becquerelium after Henri Becquerel, and by the LBNL, which proposed the name hahnium to resolve the dispute on element 105 (despite having protested the reusing of established names for different elements). IUPAC concluded that the GSI had been the first to convincingly synthesize the element.
    • 111. roentgenium, Rg, named after Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen, discoverer of X-rays (1994).
    • 112. copernicium, Cn, named after astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus (1996).
  • Rikagaku Kenkyūsho (RIKEN) in Wakō, Saitama, Japan, led principally by Kōsuke Morita:
    • 113. nihonium, Nh, named after Japan (Nihon in Japanese) where the element was discovered (2004). This discovery was also claimed by the JINR. IUPAC concluded that RIKEN had been the first to convincingly synthesise the element.
  • The Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (JINR) in Dubna, Russia, led principally by Yuri Oganessian, in collaboration with several other laboratories including the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), since 2000:

Superheavy elements

Position of the transactinide elements in the periodic table.
Main page: Physics:Superheavy element

Superheavy elements, (also known as superheavy atoms, commonly abbreviated SHE) usually refer to the transactinide elements beginning with rutherfordium (atomic number 104). They have only been made artificially, and currently serve no practical purpose because their short half-lives cause them to decay after a very short time, ranging from a few hours to just a few milliseconds, which also makes them extremely hard to study.[5][6]

Superheavy atoms have all been created since the latter half of the 20th century, and are continually being created during the 21st century as technology advances. They are created through the bombardment of elements in a particle accelerator. For example, the nuclear fusion of californium-249 and carbon-12 creates rutherfordium-261. These elements are created in quantities on the atomic scale and no method of mass creation has been found.[5]


Transuranium elements may be used to synthesize other superheavy elements.[7] Elements of the island of stability have potentially important military applications, including the development of compact nuclear weapons.[8] The potential everyday applications are vast; the element americium is used in devices such as smoke detectors and spectrometers.[9][10]

See also


  1. Pluto was a planet at the time of naming, but has since been reclassified as a dwarf planet.
  1. Considine, Glenn, ed (2002). Van Nostrand's Scientific Encyclopedia (9th ed.). New York: Wiley Interscience. p. 738. ISBN 978-0-471-33230-5. 
  2. Morel, Andrew (2008). "Price of Plutonium". in Elert, Glenn. The Physics Factbook. 
  3. Martin, Rodger C.; Kos, Steve E. (2001). Applications and Availability of Californium-252 Neutron Sources for Waste Characterization (Report). 
  4. Silva, Robert J. (2006). "Fermium, Mendelevium, Nobelium and Lawrencium". in Morss, Lester R.; Edelstein, Norman M.; Fuger, Jean. The Chemistry of the Actinide and Transactinide Elements (Third ed.). Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer Science+Business Media. ISBN 978-1-4020-3555-5. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 Heenen, Paul-Henri; Nazarewicz, Witold (2002). "Quest for superheavy nuclei". Europhysics News 33 (1): 5–9. doi:10.1051/epn:2002102. Bibcode2002ENews..33....5H. 
  6. Greenwood, Norman N. (1997). "Recent developments concerning the discovery of elements 100–111". Pure and Applied Chemistry 69 (1): 179–184. doi:10.1351/pac199769010179. 
  7. Lougheed, R. W. et al. (1985). "Search for superheavy elements using 48Ca + 254Esg reaction". Physical Review C 32 (5): 1760–1763. doi:10.1103/PhysRevC.32.1760. PMID 9953034. Bibcode1985PhRvC..32.1760L. 
  8. Gsponer, André; Hurni, Jean-Pierre (1997). The Physical Principles of Thermonuclear Explosives, Intertial Confinement Fusion, and the Quest for Fourth Generation Nuclear Weapons. International Network of Engineers and Scientists Against Proliferation. pp. 110–115. ISBN 978-3-933071-02-6. 
  9. "Smoke Detectors and Americium", Nuclear Issues Briefing Paper 35, May 2002,, retrieved 2015-08-26 
  10. Nuclear Data Viewer 2.4, NNDC

Further reading