Tech

Hunting down the last elements

Updated 8:37 AM ET, Tue April 19, 2016
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Element 117 was formed by firing beams of calcium particles at a layer of berkelium inside a particle accelerator, which fused their nuclei to create the new product. LLNL
The element (pictured) lasts less than a second before decaying, which is typical of the 'super-heavy' elements Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Dr. Dawn Shaughnessy's group at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory discovered element 117. Pictured, she prepares a sample for chemical analysis of the as yet unnamed element 117. Jacqueline McBride/Jacqueline McBride
The accelerator used by Shaugnessy's group is based at the Joint Institute of Nuclear Research (JINR) in Dubna, Russia. The U.S. and Russian teams have collaborated for 26 years, and created five new elements together. JINR
Most known elements were created by supernovae, the explosion of a dying star, which have been discovered throughout history. NASA/ESA
The JINR will begin using a more advanced cyclotron within a new facility later this year, although it is uncertain whether new elements will be discovered. JINR
The priority of scientists now is to find the 'island of stability,' housing variants of an element that could last long enough to study, and could give rise to new technologies. The island is predicted to be located around element 114. CNN
The first man-made elements were created through particle accelerators in the early 20th century, including several during the Manhattan Project that led to the first atomic bombs. Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Dr. Shaughnessy believes the field faces an uncertain future as elements become harder to create, and it becomes harder to attract new students. She believes represents of chemistry in pop culture such as the hit show 'Breaking Bad' can help to engage new generations.
From Sony Pictures Television