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What is Seaborgium?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 01 November 2016
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Seaborgium is a metallic chemical element in the transactinide series of the periodic table of elements. Like other elements in this series, seaborgium is a very unstable element, with half lives of its isotopes being measured in the seconds. This instability makes seaborgium impossible to find in nature; it must be synthesized in a laboratory by researchers who with to study it. Like other synthetic heavy elements, seaborgium has no commercial uses since it is extremely expensive to produce and too short-lived to be terribly productive.

This element appears to share chemical properties with tungsten, explaining its alias of eka-tungsten. Like other transactinides, seaborgium is also radioactive, making it potentially dangerous to work with. It is identified with the symbol Sg on the periodic table of elements, and it has an atomic number of 106, placing it among the transuranic elements. These elements all have atomic numbers higher than that of uranium, and they share a number of chemical properties including instability and radioactivity.

Credit for the discovery of this element is generally given to a team of University of California, Berkeley researchers led by Albert Ghiorso in 1974. The element was also synthesized and identified by Russian researchers in Dubna at around the same time. Like other elements which were discovered and confirmed in several places at once, seaborgium was a cause of controversy until the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) gave the credit to the American researchers.

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The story behind the name of this element is actually quite interesting. The American researchers proposed “seaborgium,” honoring Glenn Seaborg, a prominent researcher who happened to be part of their team. The IUPAC took exception to this, trying to rule that elements could not be named for living people, and they instituted “unnilhexium” as a placeholder name before proposing “rutherfordium,” a name which later went to element 104. In 1997, the IUPAC agreed upon “seaborgium” for the element's name while resolving controversies over the names of elements 104 through 108.

In order to produce this element, researchers must bombard other elements in a linear accelerator, typically producing a very small volume of seaborgium at any given time. Using sophisticated scientific equipment, researchers can register the presence of seaborgium in the laboratory and also learn a few things about it before it decays into the form of a more stable element.

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