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Hassium is a chemical element; it has symbol Hs and atomic number 108. Hassium is highly radioactive: its most stable known isotopes have half-lives of approximately ten seconds. One of its isotopes, 270Hs, has magic numbers of both protons and neutrons for deformed nuclei, which gives it greater stability against spontaneous fission. Hassium is a superheavy element; it has been produced in a laboratory only in very small quantities by fusing heavy nuclei with lighter ones. Natural occurrences of the element have been hypothesised but never found.
| (data not decisive)
|Hassium in the periodic table
|Atomic number (Z)
|[Rn] 5f14 6d6 7s2
|Electrons per shell
|2, 8, 18, 32, 32, 14, 2
|Phase at STP
|Density (near r.t.)
|27–29 g/cm3 (predicted)
|(+2), (+3), (+4), (+6), +8 (brackets: prediction)
|empirical: 126 pm (estimated)
|134 pm (estimated)
| hexagonal close-packed (hcp)
|after Hassia, Latin for Hesse, Germany, where it was discovered
|Gesellschaft für Schwerionenforschung (1984)
|Isotopes of hassium
| Category: Hassium
In the periodic table of elements, hassium is a transactinide element, a member of the 7th period and group 8; it is thus the sixth member of the 6d series of transition metals. Chemistry experiments have confirmed that hassium behaves as the heavier homologue to osmium, reacting readily with oxygen to form a volatile tetroxide. The chemical properties of hassium have been only partly characterized, but they compare well with the chemistry of the other group 8 elements.
The principal innovation that led to the discovery of hassium was the technique of cold fusion, in which the fused nuclei did not differ by mass as much as in earlier techniques. It relied on greater stability of target nuclei, which in turn decreased excitation energy. This decreased the number of neutron ejections during synthesis, creating heavier, more stable resulting nuclei. The technique was first tested at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (JINR) in Dubna, Moscow Oblast, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union, in 1974. JINR used this technique to attempt synthesis of element 108 in 1978, in 1983, and in 1984; the latter experiment resulted in a claim that element 108 had been produced. Later in 1984, a synthesis claim followed from the Gesellschaft für Schwerionenforschung (GSI) in Darmstadt, Hesse, West Germany. The 1993 report by the Transfermium Working Group, formed by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry and the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics, concluded that the report from Darmstadt was conclusive on its own whereas that from Dubna was not, and major credit was assigned to the German scientists. GSI formally announced they wished to name the element hassium after the German state of Hesse (Hassia in Latin), home to the facility in 1992; this name was accepted as final in 1997.
Introduction to the heaviest elements
Synthesis of superheavy nuclei
A superheavy atomic nucleus is created in a nuclear reaction that combines two other nuclei of unequal size into one; roughly, the more unequal the two nuclei in terms of mass, the greater the possibility that the two react. The material made of the heavier nuclei is made into a target, which is then bombarded by the beam of lighter nuclei. Two nuclei can only fuse into one if they approach each other closely enough; normally, nuclei (all positively charged) repel each other due to electrostatic repulsion. The strong interaction can overcome this repulsion but only within a very short distance from a nucleus; beam nuclei are thus greatly accelerated in order to make such repulsion insignificant compared to the velocity of the beam nucleus. The energy applied to the beam nuclei to accelerate them can cause them to reach speeds as high as one-tenth of the speed of light. However, if too much energy is applied, the beam nucleus can fall apart.
Coming close enough alone is not enough for two nuclei to fuse: when two nuclei approach each other, they usually remain together for approximately 10−20 seconds and then part ways (not necessarily in the same composition as before the reaction) rather than form a single nucleus. This happens because during the attempted formation of a single nucleus, electrostatic repulsion tears apart the nucleus that is being formed. Each pair of a target and a beam is characterized by its cross section—the probability that fusion will occur if two nuclei approach one another expressed in terms of the transverse area that the incident particle must hit in order for the fusion to occur. This fusion may occur as a result of the quantum effect in which nuclei can tunnel through electrostatic repulsion. If the two nuclei can stay close for past that phase, multiple nuclear interactions result in redistribution of energy and an energy equilibrium.
The resulting merger is an excited state—termed a compound nucleus—and thus it is very unstable. To reach a more stable state, the temporary merger may fission without formation of a more stable nucleus. Alternatively, the compound nucleus may eject a few neutrons, which would carry away the excitation energy; if the latter is not sufficient for a neutron expulsion, the merger would produce a gamma ray. This happens in approximately 10−16 seconds after the initial nuclear collision and results in creation of a more stable nucleus. The definition by the IUPAC/IUPAP Joint Working Party (JWP) states that a chemical element can only be recognized as discovered if a nucleus of it has not decayed within 10−14 seconds. This value was chosen as an estimate of how long it takes a nucleus to acquire its outer electrons and thus display its chemical properties.
Decay and detection
The beam passes through the target and reaches the next chamber, the separator; if a new nucleus is produced, it is carried with this beam. In the separator, the newly produced nucleus is separated from other nuclides (that of the original beam and any other reaction products) and transferred to a surface-barrier detector, which stops the nucleus. The exact location of the upcoming impact on the detector is marked; also marked are its energy and the time of the arrival. The transfer takes about 10−6 seconds; in order to be detected, the nucleus must survive this long. The nucleus is recorded again once its decay is registered, and the location, the energy, and the time of the decay are measured.
Stability of a nucleus is provided by the strong interaction. However, its range is very short; as nuclei become larger, its influence on the outermost nucleons (protons and neutrons) weakens. At the same time, the nucleus is torn apart by electrostatic repulsion between protons, and its range is not limited. Total binding energy provided by the strong interaction increases linearly with the number of nucleons, whereas electrostatic repulsion increases with the square of the atomic number, i.e. the latter grows faster and becomes increasingly important for heavy and superheavy nuclei. Superheavy nuclei are thus theoretically predicted and have so far been observed to predominantly decay via decay modes that are caused by such repulsion: alpha decay and spontaneous fission. Almost all alpha emitters have over 210 nucleons, and the lightest nuclide primarily undergoing spontaneous fission has 238. In both decay modes, nuclei are inhibited from decaying by corresponding energy barriers for each mode, but they can be tunnelled through.
Alpha particles are commonly produced in radioactive decays because mass of an alpha particle per nucleon is small enough to leave some energy for the alpha particle to be used as kinetic energy to leave the nucleus. Spontaneous fission is caused by electrostatic repulsion tearing the nucleus apart and produces various nuclei in different instances of identical nuclei fissioning. As the atomic number increases, spontaneous fission rapidly becomes more important: spontaneous fission partial half-lives decrease by 23 orders of magnitude from uranium (element 92) to nobelium (element 102), and by 30 orders of magnitude from thorium (element 90) to fermium (element 100). The earlier liquid drop model thus suggested that spontaneous fission would occur nearly instantly due to disappearance of the fission barrier for nuclei with about 280 nucleons. The later nuclear shell model suggested that nuclei with about 300 nucleons would form an island of stability in which nuclei will be more resistant to spontaneous fission and will primarily undergo alpha decay with longer half-lives. Subsequent discoveries suggested that the predicted island might be further than originally anticipated; they also showed that nuclei intermediate between the long-lived actinides and the predicted island are deformed, and gain additional stability from shell effects. Experiments on lighter superheavy nuclei, as well as those closer to the expected island, have shown greater than previously anticipated stability against spontaneous fission, showing the importance of shell effects on nuclei.
Alpha decays are registered by the emitted alpha particles, and the decay products are easy to determine before the actual decay; if such a decay or a series of consecutive decays produces a known nucleus, the original product of a reaction can be easily determined. (That all decays within a decay chain were indeed related to each other is established by the location of these decays, which must be in the same place.) The known nucleus can be recognized by the specific characteristics of decay it undergoes such as decay energy (or more specifically, the kinetic energy of the emitted particle). Spontaneous fission, however, produces various nuclei as products, so the original nuclide cannot be determined from its daughters.The information available to physicists aiming to synthesize a superheavy element is thus the information collected at the detectors: location, energy, and time of arrival of a particle to the detector, and those of its decay. The physicists analyze this data and seek to conclude that it was indeed caused by a new element and could not have been caused by a different nuclide than the one claimed. Often, provided data is insufficient for a conclusion that a new element was definitely created and there is no other explanation for the observed effects; errors in interpreting data have been made.
Nuclear reactions used in the 1960s resulted in high excitation energies that required expulsion of four or five neutrons; these reactions used targets made of elements with high atomic numbers to maximize the size difference between the two nuclei in a reaction. While this increased the chance of fusion due to the lower electrostatic repulsion between the target and the projectile, the formed compound nuclei often broke apart and did not survive to form a new element. Moreover, fusion processes inevitably produce neutron-poor nuclei, as heavier elements require more neutrons per proton to maximize stability; therefore, the necessary ejection of neutrons results in final products with typically have shorter lifetimes. As such, light beams (six to ten protons) allowed synthesis of elements only up to 106.
To advance to heavier elements, Soviet physicist Yuri Oganessian at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (JINR) in Dubna, Moscow Oblast, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union, proposed a different mechanism, in which the bombarded nucleus would be lead-208, which has magic numbers of protons and neutrons, or another nucleus close to it. Each proton and neutron has a fixed value of rest energy; those of all protons are equal and so are those of all neutrons. In a nucleus, some of this energy is diverted to binding protons and neutrons; if a nucleus has a magic number of protons and/or neutrons, then even more of its rest energy is diverted, which gives the nuclide additional stability. This additional stability requires more energy for an external nucleus to break the existing one and penetrate it. More energy diverted to binding nucleons means less rest energy, which in turn means less mass (mass is proportional to rest energy). More equal atomic numbers of the reacting nuclei result in greater electrostatic repulsion between them, but the lower mass excess of the target nucleus balances it. This leaves less excitation energy for the newly created compound nucleus, which necessitates fewer neutron ejections to reach a stable state. Because of this energy difference, the former mechanism became known as "hot fusion" and the latter as "cold fusion".
Cold fusion was first declared successful in 1974 at JINR, when it was tested for synthesis of the yet-undiscovered element 106. These new nuclei were projected to decay via spontaneous fission. The physicists at JINR concluded element 106 was produced in the experiment because no fissioning nucleus known at the time showed parameters of fission similar to what was observed during the experiment and because changing either of the two nuclei in the reactions negated the observed effects. Physicists at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory (LBL; originally Radiation Laboratory, RL, and later Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, LBNL) of the University of California in Berkeley, California, United States, also expressed great interest in the new technique. When asked about how far this new method could go and if lead targets were a physics' Klondike, Oganessian responded, "Klondike may be an exaggeration [...] But soon, we will try to get elements 107 ... 108 in these reactions."
The synthesis of element 108 was first attempted in 1978 by a research team led by Oganessian at the JINR. The team used a reaction that would generate element 108, specifically, the isotope 270108, from fusion of radium (specifically, the isotope 226
) and calcium (48
). The researchers were uncertain in interpreting their data, and their paper did not unambiguously claim to have discovered the element. The same year, another team at JINR investigated the possibility of synthesis of element 108 in reactions between lead (208
) and iron (58
); they were uncertain in interpreting the data, suggesting the possibility that element 108 had not been created.
In 1983, new experiments were performed at JINR. The experiments probably resulted in the synthesis of element 108; bismuth (209
) was bombarded with manganese (55
) to obtain 263108, lead (207
) was bombarded with iron (58
) to obtain 264108, and californium (249
) was bombarded with neon (22
) to obtain 270108. These experiments were not claimed as a discovery and Oganessian announced them in a conference rather than in a written report.
In 1984, JINR researchers in Dubna performed experiments set up identically to the previous ones; they bombarded bismuth and lead targets with ions of lighter elements manganese and iron, respectively. Twenty-one spontaneous fission events were recorded; the researchers concluded they were caused by 264108.
Later in 1984, a research team led by Peter Armbruster and Gottfried Münzenberg at Gesellschaft für Schwerionenforschung (GSI; Institute for Heavy Ion Research) in Darmstadt, Hesse, West Germany, attempted to create element 108. The team bombarded a lead (208
) target with accelerated iron (58
) nuclei. GSI's experiment to create element 108 was delayed until after their creation of element 109 in 1982, as prior calculations had suggested that even–even isotopes of element 108 would have spontaneous fission half-lives of less than one microsecond, making them difficult to detect and identify. The element 108 experiment finally went ahead after 266109 had been synthesized and was found to decay by alpha emission, suggesting that isotopes of element 108 would do likewise, and this was corroborated by an experiment aimed at synthesizing isotopes of element 106. GSI reported synthesis of three atoms of 265108. Two years later, they reported synthesis of one atom of the even–even 264108.
In 1985, the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) and the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP) formed the Transfermium Working Group (TWG) to assess discoveries and establish final names for elements with atomic numbers greater than 100. The party held meetings with delegates from the three competing institutes; in 1990, they established criteria for recognition of an element and in 1991, they finished the work of assessing discoveries and disbanded. These results were published in 1993.
According to the report, the 1984 works from JINR and GSI simultaneously and independently established synthesis of element 108. Of the two 1984 works, the one from GSI was said to be sufficient as a discovery on its own. The JINR work, which preceded the GSI one, "very probably" displayed synthesis of element 108. However, that was determined in retrospect given the work from Darmstadt; the JINR work focused on chemically identifying remote granddaughters of element 108 isotopes (which could not exclude the possibility that these daughter isotopes had other progenitors), while the GSI work clearly identified the decay path of those element 108 isotopes. The report concluded that the major credit should be awarded to GSI. In written responses to this ruling, both JINR and GSI agreed with its conclusions. In the same response, GSI confirmed that they and JINR were able to resolve all conflicts between them.
Historically, a newly discovered element was named by its discoverer. The first regulation came in 1947, when IUPAC decided naming required regulation in case there are conflicting names. These matters were to be resolved by the Commission of Inorganic Nomenclature and the Commission of Atomic Weights. They would review the names in case of a conflict and select one; the decision would be based on a number of factors, such as usage, and would not be an indicator of priority of a claim. The two commissions would recommend a name to the IUPAC Council, which would be the final authority. The discoverers held the right to name an element, but their name would be subject to approval by IUPAC. The Commission of Atomic Weights distanced itself from element naming in most cases.
Under Mendeleev's nomenclature for unnamed and undiscovered elements, hassium would be known as "eka-osmium", as in "the first element below osmium in the periodic table" (from Sanskrit eka meaning "one"). In 1979, IUPAC published recommendations according to which the element was to be called "unniloctium" and assigned the corresponding symbol of "Uno", a systematic element name as a placeholder until the element was discovered and the discovery then confirmed, and a permanent name was decided. Although these recommendations were widely followed in the chemical community, the competing physicists in the field ignored them. They either called it "element 108", with the symbols E108, (108) or 108, or used the proposed name "hassium".
In 1990, in an attempt to break a deadlock in establishing priority of discovery and naming of several elements, IUPAC reaffirmed in its nomenclature of inorganic chemistry that after existence of an element was established, the discoverers could propose a name. (In addition, the Commission of Atomic Weights was excluded from the naming process.) The first publication on criteria for an element discovery, released in 1991, specified the need for recognition by TWG.
Armbruster and his colleagues, the officially recognized German discoverers, held a naming ceremony for the elements 107 through 109, which had all been recognized as discovered by GSI, on 7 September 1992. For element 108, the scientists proposed the name "hassium". It is derived from the Latin name Hassia for the German state of Hesse where the institute is located. This name was proposed to IUPAC in a written response to their ruling on priority of discovery claims of elements, signed 29 September 1992.
The process of naming of element 108 was a part of a larger process of naming a number of elements starting with element 101; three teams—JINR, GSI, and LBL—claimed discoveries of several elements and the right to name those elements. Sometimes, these claims clashed; since a discoverer was considered entitled to naming of an element, conflicts over priority of discovery often resulted in conflicts over names of these new elements. These conflicts became known as the Transfermium Wars. Different suggestions to name the whole set of elements from 101 onward and they occasionally assigned names suggested by one team to be used for elements discovered by another. However, not all suggestions were met with equal approval; the teams openly protested naming proposals on several occasions.
In 1994, IUPAC Commission on Nomenclature of Inorganic Chemistry recommended that element 108 be named "hahnium" (Hn) after the German physicist Otto Hahn so elements named after Hahn and Lise Meitner (it was recommended element 109 should be named meitnerium, following GSI's suggestion) would be next to each other, honouring their joint discovery of nuclear fission; IUPAC commented that they felt the German suggestion was obscure. GSI protested, saying this proposal contradicted the long-standing convention of giving the discoverer the right to suggest a name; the American Chemical Society supported GSI. The name "hahnium", albeit with the different symbol Ha, had already been proposed and used by the American scientists for element 105, for which they had a discovery dispute with JINR; they thus protested the confusing scrambling of names. Following the uproar, IUPAC formed an ad hoc committee of representatives from the national adhering organizations of the three countries home to the competing institutions; they produced a new set of names in 1995. Element 108 was again named hahnium; this proposal was also retracted. The final compromise was reached in 1996 and published in 1997; element 108 was named hassium (Hs). Simultaneously, the name dubnium (Db; from Dubna, the JINR location) was assigned to element 105, and the name hahnium was not used for any element.
The official justification for this naming, alongside that of darmstadtium for element 110, was that it completed a set of geographic names for the location of the GSI; this set had been initiated by 19th-century names europium and germanium. This set would serve as a response to earlier naming of americium, californium, and berkelium for elements discovered in Berkeley. Armbruster commented on this, "this bad tradition was established by Berkeley. We wanted to do it for Europe." Later, when commenting on the naming of element 112, Armbruster said, "I did everything to ensure that we do not continue with German scientists and German towns."