We Just Measured The World’s Heaviest Atom, And

Oganesson (Og) is the heaviest chemical element in the periodic table, but its properties have proved difficult to measure since it was first synthesized in 2002. Now an advanced computer simulation has filled in some of the gaps, and it turns out that the element is even stranger than many expected.

At the atomic level, oganesson behaves remarkably differently from lighter elements in several important ways—and it may provide some fundamental insights into the fundamentals of how these superheavy elements work. The simulations carried out by the international team of researchers show that oganesson’s electrons, protons and neutrons do not follow the same rules as the other noble gases with which the element is grouped, and this could have a major impact on how we understand this part of the periodic table. Electronic structures of xenon (top), radon (middle), and oganesson (bottom).

“The questions related to superheavy systems are at the forefront of nuclear and atomic physics and chemistry research.” In lighter elements in the same noble gas family as oganesson, according to the Bohr model of the atom, electrons take up certain orbits or positions around the nucleus, forming shell-like groups around the center. Calculations known as fermion localization functions are used to determine where these electron shells are, but such are the large electrostatic forces produced by an oganesson atom, the rules of special relativity come into play. With that in mind, the researchers used custom fermion localization functions called electron localization functions to calculate where the electrons would be in oganesson.

In other words, at the most fundamental level, it is not like other noble gases such as xenon or neon at all. “On paper, we thought it would have the same rare gas structure as the others in this family,” says one of the researchers, Peter Schwerdtfeger from Massey University in New Zealand. “In our calculations, however, we predict that oganesson more or less loses its shell structure and becomes a smear of electrons.” the superheavy nucleus, according to the researchers’ calculations, although the protons were shown to retain a kind of shell-like status. We’re talking about deep level quantum physics here, but that means oganesson doesn’t seem to be like the other elements it’s grouped with.

The special clumping of the electrons can mean that it is much more chemically reactive than the other noble gases, for example.

The element is too difficult to produce and lasts for such a short time that we cannot really examine it in the usual ways. But now we have these predictions about the structure and properties of element 118, scientists can put together experiments to try and put these hypotheses to the test.

It is the next step in the research. Down the line, this insight may even help us figure out how to produce an oganesson atom that lasts for more than a millisecond.” Computations are the only way to find out [oganesson’s] behavior with tools that we currently have , and they have certainly yielded some interesting findings,” says Schwerdtfeger. The research is published in Physical Review Letters.

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