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Meitnerium (German: [maɪ̯tˈneːʁiʊm] ⓘ) is a synthetic chemical element; it has symbol Mt and atomic number 109. It is an extremely radioactive synthetic element (an element not found in nature, but can be created in a laboratory). The most stable known isotope, meitnerium-278, has a half-life of 4.5 seconds, although the unconfirmed meitnerium-282 may have a longer half-life of 67 seconds. The GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research near Darmstadt, Germany, first created this element in 1982. It is named after Lise Meitner.
| (unconfirmed: 282)
|Meitnerium in the periodic table
|Atomic number (Z)
|[Rn] 5f14 6d7 7s2 (predicted)
|Electrons per shell
|2, 8, 18, 32, 32, 15, 2 (predicted)
|Phase at STP
|Density (near r.t.)
|27–28 g/cm3 (predicted)
|(+1), (+3), (+4), (+6), (+8), (+9) (predicted)
|empirical: 128 pm (predicted)
|129 pm (estimated)
| face-centered cubic (fcc)
|after Lise Meitner
|Gesellschaft für Schwerionenforschung (1982)
|Isotopes of meitnerium
| Category: Meitnerium
In the periodic table, meitnerium is a d-block transactinide element. It is a member of the 7th period and is placed in the group 9 elements, although no chemical experiments have yet been carried out to confirm that it behaves as the heavier homologue to iridium in group 9 as the seventh member of the 6d series of transition metals. Meitnerium is calculated to have properties similar to its lighter homologues, cobalt, rhodium, and iridium.
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.
Meitnerium was first synthesized on August 29, 1982, by a German research team led by Peter Armbruster and Gottfried Münzenberg at the Institute for Heavy Ion Research (Gesellschaft für Schwerionenforschung) in Darmstadt. The team bombarded a target of bismuth-209 with accelerated nuclei of iron-58 and detected a single atom of the isotope meitnerium-266:
Using Mendeleev's nomenclature for unnamed and undiscovered elements, meitnerium should be known as eka-iridium. In 1979, during the Transfermium Wars (but before the synthesis of meitnerium), IUPAC published recommendations according to which the element was to be called unnilennium (with the corresponding symbol of Une), a systematic element name as a placeholder, until the element was discovered (and the discovery then confirmed) and a permanent name was decided on. Although widely used in the chemical community on all levels, from chemistry classrooms to advanced textbooks, the recommendations were mostly ignored among scientists in the field, who either called it "element 109", with the symbol of E109, (109) or even simply 109, or used the proposed name "meitnerium".
The naming of meitnerium was discussed in the element naming controversy regarding the names of elements 104 to 109, but meitnerium was the only proposal and thus was never disputed. The name meitnerium (Mt) was suggested by the GSI team in September 1992 in honor of the Austrian physicist Lise Meitner, a co-discoverer of protactinium (with Otto Hahn), and one of the discoverers of nuclear fission. In 1994 the name was recommended by IUPAC, and was officially adopted in 1997. It is thus the only element named specifically after a non-mythological woman (curium being named for both Pierre and Marie Curie).
Meitnerium has no stable or naturally occurring isotopes. Several radioactive isotopes have been synthesized in the laboratory, either by fusing two atoms or by observing the decay of heavier elements. Eight different isotopes of meitnerium have been reported with mass numbers 266, 268, 270, and 274–278, two of which, meitnerium-268 and meitnerium-270, have unconfirmed metastable states. A ninth isotope with mass number 282 is unconfirmed. Most of these decay predominantly through alpha decay, although some undergo spontaneous fission.
Stability and half-lives
All meitnerium isotopes are extremely unstable and radioactive; in general, heavier isotopes are more stable than the lighter. The most stable known meitnerium isotope, 278Mt, is also the heaviest known; it has a half-life of 4.5 seconds. The unconfirmed 282Mt is even heavier and appears to have a longer half-life of 67 seconds. The isotopes 276Mt and 274Mt have half-lives of 0.62 and 0.64 seconds respectively. The remaining five isotopes have half-lives between 1 and 20 milliseconds.
The isotope 277Mt, created as the final decay product of 293Ts for the first time in 2012, was observed to undergo spontaneous fission with a half-life of 5 milliseconds. Preliminary data analysis considered the possibility of this fission event instead originating from 277Hs, for it also has a half-life of a few milliseconds, and could be populated following undetected electron capture somewhere along the decay chain. This possibility was later deemed very unlikely based on observed decay energies of 281Ds and 281Rg and the short half-life of 277Mt, although there is still some uncertainty of the assignment. Regardless, the rapid fission of 277Mt and 277Hs is strongly suggestive of a region of instability for superheavy nuclei with N = 168–170. The existence of this region, characterized by a decrease in fission barrier height between the deformed shell closure at N = 162 and spherical shell closure at N = 184, is consistent with theoretical models.
Other than nuclear properties, no properties of meitnerium or its compounds have been measured; this is due to its extremely limited and expensive production and the fact that meitnerium and its parents decay very quickly. Properties of meitnerium metal remain unknown and only predictions are available.
Meitnerium is the seventh member of the 6d series of transition metals, and should be much like the platinum group metals. Calculations on its ionization potentials and atomic and ionic radii are similar to that of its lighter homologue iridium, thus implying that meitnerium's basic properties will resemble those of the other group 9 elements, cobalt, rhodium, and iridium.
Prediction of the probable chemical properties of meitnerium has not received much attention recently. Meitnerium is expected to be a noble metal. The standard electrode potential for the Mt3+/Mt couple is expected to be 0.8 V. Based on the most stable oxidation states of the lighter group 9 elements, the most stable oxidation states of meitnerium are predicted to be the +6, +3, and +1 states, with the +3 state being the most stable in aqueous solutions. In comparison, rhodium and iridium show a maximum oxidation state of +6, while the most stable states are +4 and +3 for iridium and +3 for rhodium. The oxidation state +9, represented only by iridium in [IrO4]+, might be possible for its congener meitnerium in the nonafluoride (MtF9) and the [MtO4]+ cation, although [IrO4]+ is expected to be more stable than these meitnerium compounds. The tetrahalides of meitnerium have also been predicted to have similar stabilities to those of iridium, thus also allowing a stable +4 state. It is further expected that the maximum oxidation states of elements from bohrium (element 107) to darmstadtium (element 110) may be stable in the gas phase but not in aqueous solution.
Physical and atomic
Meitnerium is expected to be a solid under normal conditions and assume a face-centered cubic crystal structure, similarly to its lighter congener iridium. It should be a very heavy metal with a density of around 27–28 g/cm3, which would be among the highest of any of the 118 known elements. Meitnerium is also predicted to be paramagnetic.
Meitnerium is the first element on the periodic table whose chemistry has not yet been investigated. Unambiguous determination of the chemical characteristics of meitnerium has yet to have been established due to the short half-lives of meitnerium isotopes and a limited number of likely volatile compounds that could be studied on a very small scale. One of the few meitnerium compounds that are likely to be sufficiently volatile is meitnerium hexafluoride (MtF
6), as its lighter homologue iridium hexafluoride (IrF
6) is volatile above 60 °C and therefore the analogous compound of meitnerium might also be sufficiently volatile; a volatile octafluoride (MtF
8) might also be possible. For chemical studies to be carried out on a transactinide, at least four atoms must be produced, the half-life of the isotope used must be at least 1 second, and the rate of production must be at least one atom per week. Even though the half-life of 278Mt, the most stable confirmed meitnerium isotope, is 4.5 seconds, long enough to perform chemical studies, another obstacle is the need to increase the rate of production of meitnerium isotopes and allow experiments to carry on for weeks or months so that statistically significant results can be obtained. Separation and detection must be carried out continuously to separate out the meitnerium isotopes and have automated systems experiment on the gas-phase and solution chemistry of meitnerium, as the yields for heavier elements are predicted to be smaller than those for lighter elements; some of the separation techniques used for bohrium and hassium could be reused. However, the experimental chemistry of meitnerium has not received as much attention as that of the heavier elements from copernicium to livermorium.
The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory attempted to synthesize the isotope 271Mt in 2002–2003 for a possible chemical investigation of meitnerium, because it was expected that it might be more stable than nearby isotopes due to having 162 neutrons, a magic number for deformed nuclei; its half-life was predicted to be a few seconds, long enough for a chemical investigation. However, no atoms of 271Mt were detected; this isotope of meitnerium is currently unknown.
An experiment determining the chemical properties of a transactinide would need to compare a compound of that transactinide with analogous compounds of some of its lighter homologues: for example, in the chemical characterization of hassium, hassium tetroxide (HsO4) was compared with the analogous osmium compound, osmium tetroxide (OsO4). In a preliminary step towards determining the chemical properties of meitnerium, the GSI attempted sublimation of the rhodium compounds rhodium(III) oxide (Rh2O3) and rhodium(III) chloride (RhCl3). However, macroscopic amounts of the oxide would not sublimate until 1000 °C and the chloride would not until 780 °C, and then only in the presence of carbon aerosol particles: these temperatures are far too high for such procedures to be used on meitnerium, as most of the current methods used for the investigation of the chemistry of superheavy elements do not work above 500 °C.
Following the 2014 successful synthesis of seaborgium hexacarbonyl, Sg(CO)6, studies were conducted with the stable transition metals of groups 7 through 9, suggesting that carbonyl formation could be extended to further probe the chemistries of the early 6d transition metals from rutherfordium to meitnerium inclusive. Nevertheless, the challenges of low half-lives and difficult production reactions make meitnerium difficult to access for radiochemists, though the isotopes 278Mt and 276Mt are long-lived enough for chemical research and may be produced in the decay chains of 294Ts and 288Mc respectively. 276Mt is likely more suitable, since producing tennessine requires a rare and rather short-lived berkelium target. The isotope 270Mt, observed in the decay chain of 278Nh with a half-life of 0.69 seconds, may also be sufficiently long-lived for chemical investigations, though a direct synthesis route leading to this isotope and more precise measurements of its decay properties would be required.