Nihonium (Nh)

Ununtrium (or Nihonium – Nh) is a radioactive chemical element with the atomic number 113 in the periodic table. There is insufficient evidence of the chemical properties of this synthetically produced substance classified in the boron family of the periodic table. 

Since there are only a few atoms produced, this extremely radioactive and rapidly decaying chemical element has no practical use, apart from being utilized in scientific research. 

Chemical and Physical Properties of Ununtrium

The symbol in the periodic table of elementsUut
Atomic number113
Atomic weight (mass)[286] g.mol-1
Group number13 (Boron group)
Period7 (p-block)
Physical stateSolid at 20°C
Half-lifeFrom less than 1.4 milliseconds to 19.6 seconds
Electronegativity according to PaulingUnknown
Melting pointUnknown
Boiling pointUnknown
Van der Waals radiusUnknown
Ionic radiusUnknown
Most characteristic isotope286Nh
Electronic shell[Rn] 5f146d107s27p1
The energy of the first ionizationN/A
The energy of the second ionizationN/A
Discovery date2003 – 2004

Discovered in 2004 by a team of scientists from RIKEN (The Institute of Physical and Chemical Research) in Japan, and independently by collaboration of the scientists from the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna, Russia, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California (in 2003)

With the periodic table symbol Uut, atomic number 113, an assumed atomic mass of [286] g.mol-1, and electron configuration [Rn] 5f146d107s27p1, ununtrium is a synthetically produced superheavy radioactive metal at room temperature. 

It’s assumed that ununtrium (nihonium) shares its properties with the members of its family of the periodic table – boron, aluminum, gallium, indium, and thallium. For this reason, element 113 is predicted to belong to the class of post-transition metals. 

Ununtrium (nihonium) is also a transactinide element in the p-block, belonging to the same group with the elements sulfur, phosphorus, indium, gallium, chlorine, etc. Element 113 is believed to be the most electronegative element in the boron group of the periodic table. 

Most of the chemical properties of this transuranium element are yet to be studied.                        

How Was Ununtrium Discovered?

The first ununtrium isotope that has been made was 284Nh. This isotope of element 11 was produced as a decay product of the 288Mc isotope in an experiment conducted on August 12, 2012, by Kosuke Morita’s collaborative team from the RIKEN Nishina Center for Accelerator-Based Science in Wakō, Japan. 

The team of researchers used RIKEN’s Linear Accelerator Facility and the GARIS ion separator in Wako, Japan, to study cold fusion reactions and the radioactive decay of element 115 (moscovium). They used zinc ions (70Zn) that were converted into a beam by using a particle accelerator. After this step in the process, the beam was fired at a thin layer of bismuth (209Bi) in a cold fusion reaction. The result was an atom of 284Nh that underwent four alpha decays at a great rate at the following order: roentgenium-274, meitnerium-270, bohrium-266, and dubnium-262.

Alpha decay of 278Nh ==> 274Rg ==> 270Mt ==> 266Bh ==> 262Db

However, the story of the discovery of element 113 is not so straightforward. Namely, in 2003 a Russian–American team of scientists employed at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (JINR) in Dubna, Russia, attempted a bombardment of americium-243 atoms with ions of calcium-48. Four atoms of ununpentium (element 115), as well as two isotopes of ununtrium, were observed among the resulting products of the bombardment.

The JINR first claimed to have produced a new transuranium element, i.e  Uut-283 and Uut-284, while the team from Japan submitted their scientific evidence of the new element they had discovered a year later, in 2004. 

Teams of scientists from the United States, Germany, Sweden, China, Russia, and Japan were involved in the process of evidence confirmation regarding the claims of both teams of scientists. After the procedure was finished, the IUPAC/IUPAP Joint Working Party assigned the team of scientists that worked in Japan as the first ones to have discovered element 113 of the periodic table, stating that they have fulfilled the criteria for element Z=113 by providing detailed evidence of the decay chain of this new synthetic element.

One more reason behind this decision of IUPAC/IUPAP was that Morita’s team had begun their scientific experiment earlier than the American-Russian team of scientists, i.e. in September 2003, even though they had submitted their claim later. In addition to being recognized as the first discoverers of ununtrium (niobium), this fact also earned the Japanese team of researchers the right to pick the element’s name.  

How Did Ununtrium Get Its Name?

Ununtrium is a temporary name of element 113. It got its name ‘nihonium’ (after ‘nihon’, the Japanese word for Japan) from the team of discoverers who wanted to pay tribute to their home country. 

Where Can You Find Ununtrium?

The element 113 is a synthetically made chemical substance. Therefore, it can only be found in the strictly controlled laboratory settings of the scientific institutes.  

Ununtrium in Everyday Life

Ununtrium is so far produced in minuscule amounts. Namely, there are only a few atoms of this transuranium element. Owed to this fact as well as to the extreme radioactivity of ununtrium (nihonium), this substance has no everyday use. It’s only used for scientific research. 

How Dangerous Is Ununtrium?

Like all radioactive substances, ununtrium is a highly dangerous chemical element due to its extreme radioactivity. Even if there are only a few atoms in the world produced of this chemical element, it must be handled with extreme measures of precaution in a strictly controlled laboratory environment because even the slightest exposure to radiation may lead to adverse health effects, cancers, and death of the affected individual. 

Environmental Effects of Ununtrium

This extremely radioactive element has no known biological role. Since it’s not found in the atmosphere, geosphere, or biosphere, ununtrium is not classified as an environmental hazard. 

Despite emitting extremely high levels of radioactivity, the isotopes of ununtrium are exceptionally short-lived, so the effects of ununtrium on the environment cannot be quantified. 

Isotopes of Ununtrium

There are 8 forms of ununtrium (nihonium) detected so far. The atomic mass of ununtrium isotopes ranges from 278Nh to 290Nh. With a half-life of nearly 8 seconds, the 286Nh is the longest living isotope of ununtrium (nihonium). 

Since element 113 is a highly radioactive chemical, there are no stable isotopes of ununtrium. All forms of ununtrium decay through an alpha-decay process. 

NuclideZNIsotopic mass (Da)[n 1][n 2]Half-lifeDecaymode[n 3]DaughterisotopeSpin andparity
278Nh113165278.17058(20)#1.4 msα274Rg
282Nh113169282.17567(39)#73 msα278Rg
283Nh[n 4]113170283.17657(52)#75 msα279Rg
284Nh[n 5]113171284.17873(62)#0.91 sα (96.8%)280Rg 
EC (3.2%)[3]284Cn
285Nh[n 6]113172285.17973(89)#4.2 sα281Rg
286Nh[n 7]113173286.18221(72)#9.5 sα282Rg
287Nh[n 8]113174287.18339(81)#5.5 sα283Rg
290Nh[n 9]1131772 s?α286Rg

Source: Wikipedia

List of Ununtrium Compounds 

It’s assumed that ununtrium is to display greater stability in the oxidation state +1 (like the halogens fluorine, chlorine, bromine, iodine, and astatine) than in the +3 oxidation state. The prediction based on the studies of its properties identifies the probability of ununtrium adopting several other oxidation states: +5, +3, and +2. 

The evidence derived from the experimental studies on this chemical element so far points to the fact that ununtrium is not volatile in its chemical nature. 

5 Interesting Facts and Explanations

  1. Ununtrium (Nihonium) is the first chemical element that has ever been discovered in Asia. 
  2. The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) and the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP) officially accepted the new chemical element in January 2016.
  3. The half-life of the first isotope of ununtrium that has ever been produced was less than a thousandth of a second.
  4. In 2001, the team of scientists led by Kōsuke Morita confirmed the GSI accelerator facility discoveries of elements 108 (hassium), 110 (darmstadtium), 111 (roentgenium), and 112 (copernicium). 
  5. The element’s name was chosen from several suggestions, among which there were: nishinanium, rikenium, and japonium. The Japanese word ‘nihon’ that was selected for the name of the element nihonium is one of the two ways to say ‘Japan’, meaning ‘the Land of Rising Sun’. 

Leave a Comment