FAIR

The new accelerator facility FAIR is under construction at GSI. Learn more.

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GSI associates

BMBF HMWK MWWK TMWWDG

Production of new elements – the idea

Bild: GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung GmbH

To produce a new element scientists use two elements naturally occuring on Earth. They fuse the two nuclei to a new much larger and heavier nucleus. The new element is the sum of the two constituents. The element 110 (Darmstadtium) was for example produced by fusion of nickel (element 28) with lead (element 82) (28+82=110).

The production

GSI scientists accelerate electrically charged atoms, so called ions, of one element with a 120 meters long accelerator to a high speed. Then they shoot them with approx. 30.000 kilometers per hour onto the other element. The repulsing force between the two nuclei can be overcome by the high speed and they can fuse to a new element. 

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A nickel and a lead nucleus fuse to a darmstadtium nucleus. A neutron is freed.
Bild: GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung GmbH

Filter/Separation

After the production the scientists have to prove that they really made a new element. First the element is propelled out of the reaction zone with many other fragments produced in the reaction. With different methods the scientists filter (or separate) the new element. Only then they can detect it.

Detection

To prove the production of a new element scientists use the fact that the new element is unstable. It decays into another, lighter element after just the fraction of a second and emits an alpha particle. This process can repeat several times. A so-called decay chain appears. The scientists detect the alpha particles of the decay chain and thus can verify the existence of the new element.

Experimental setups at GSI

Scientists use two complementing experimental setups for the investigation of new elements at GSI.

SHIP (Separator for Heavy Ion reaction Products)

Foto: A. Zschau, GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung GmbH

Discovery of elements 107-112 / Production of element 116

in operation since 1976

SHIP is a so-called velocity filter. Using a combination of very strong electrical and magnetical fields it separates the electrically charged reaction products flying through vacuum according to their different velocities. After the separation the new element is stopped in a semiconductor detector made of silicium and identified by measuring its alpha radiation.

Technical information about SHIP

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The velocity filter SHIP (seen from above) is 10 metres long.
Foto: A. Zschau, GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung GmbH

TASCA (TransActinide Separator and Chemistry Apparatus)

Foto: G. Otto, GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung GmbH

Production of elements 113-115, 117

in operation since 2006

TASCA is a so-called gas-filled separator. The reaction products fly through a strongly dilluted gas. The gas causes, among other things, that different reaction products each gain an identical charge state. It leads to as many atoms of the element as possible moving on a similar trajectory through a magnetic field. The trajectories of other reaction products differ, so that they are spatially parted from another. The element is stopped in a semiconductor detector made of silicium at the end of the separator and identified by measuring its alpha radiation. With further detectors even an analysis of the chemical properties of new elements is possible.

Technical information about TASCA

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The TASCA setup.
Foto: G. Otto, GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung GmbH