Moscovium: Uses, Properties & Discovery

Instructor: Julie Zundel

Julie has taught high school Zoology, Biology, Physical Science and Chem Tech. She has a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a Master of Education.

The periodic table continues to grow as scientists create new elements in labs. One such element, moscovium, was recently created. This lesson will explore the uses, properties and discovery of this new element.

What is Moscovium?

You've heard of hydrogen, helium, carbon, nitrogen, and maybe even know a little about uranium. But moscovium? What in the world is that?

Moscovium is a man-made element that contains 115 protons. As far as element's go, moscovium (abbreviated Mc) is definitely the new kid on the p-block (get, it?). In fact, up until November 2016, it went by the not-so-catchy name of ununpentium, which was a temporary name that depicted its atomic number, 115.

Just a reminder: the atomic number shows an element's number of protons.

Later, scientists changed its name from ununpentium to moscovium in honor of the Moscow region in Russia, where it was synthesized.

Moscovium went by the name Ununpentium or Uup until recently. Note its location on the periodic table
screenshot2

Now that you know a little bit about moscovium, you're probably craving more information. Let's take a look at the uses and properties of element 115.

Uses and Properties

Moscovium really doesn't have much use, other than to be studied by scientists. When it decays (or breaks down) it creates another element, nihonium, which also has no use as of yet other than study.

Moscovium has several isotopes, meaning that scientists have created different 'versions' of moscovium, each with a different numbers of neutrons in its nucleus. In case you need a little review, an isotope is the same element with different numbers of neutrons in the nucleus. All isotopes of the same element will have the same number of protons, however. So every isotope of moscovium will still have 115 protons.

Note the location of the neutrons
atom3

The most stable of these isotopes has a half-life of only 220 milliseconds. In other words, half of the moscovium atoms break down in 220 milliseconds into a different atom. The moral of the story? Moscovium doesn't last long.

So far we know moscovium was made in a lab, has several isotopes, and is named after the region in which it was created. We also know that it is radioactive, and scientists predict that it would be metallic and a solid at room temperature based on its location on the periodic table.

Discovery

Moscovium is not naturally occurring, and was synthesized in a lab. In a joint effort between Russia and the United States, scientists working in Dubna, Russia conducted experiments between July and August, 2003, in an attempt to create new elements.

They took an isotope of americium and blasted it with ions (or charged particles) of calcium with a cyclotron, which is a particle accelerator. The calcium ions were accelerated and shot onto a piece of titanium foil that contained atoms of americium. This produced four atoms of moscovium, which quickly decayed and made the element nihonium.

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