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What Is Ununoctium?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 21, 2024
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Editor's Note: Ununoctium was formally named "oganesson," after synthetic elements pioneer Yuri Oganessian, in November 2016.

Ununoctium is a


chemical element which is classified in the

noble gases

on the periodic table of elements. This element is considered a transactinide, meaning that it shares the traits of radioactivity and extreme instability with a group of extremely heavy elements. It is also the last element in the seventh period at the bottom of the periodic table, which includes other transactinide elements.

Little is known about the chemical properties of ununoctium, which is presumed to be a colorless gas. This element must be produced synthetically in order to be studied, and it exists for only milliseconds at a time, making it difficult to identify distinct chemical properties. Ununoctium appears to be highly reactive, although only a few atoms of this element have ever been generated, detected, and observed, making determinations about the element a bit challenging. Ununoctium has an atomic number of 118, and it is identified with the symbol Uuo on the periodic table of elements.

Discovery for this element will probably go to researchers from the Russian Joint Institute for Nuclear Research and American scientists from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The Russian and American scientists worked together at Dubna, Russia to synthesize this element by colliding californium and calcium in a linear accelerator. They announced the discovery of element 118 in 2006; the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) must confirm the discovery before it can be officially credited.

”Ununoctium” is a temporary systematic element name. Systematic element names are derived from the atomic numbers of their elements, ensuring that scientists use uniform terms to refer to elements until their official names can be determined. Typically, the name of an element is proposed by the laboratory which is given the credit of discovery; “moskovium” has been proposed as a name for ununoctium by the research team.

Given that only a few atoms of this element can be synthesized at a time, commercial uses for ununoctium are unlikely to be developed. Researchers use it to learn more about the transactinides and noble gases; ununoctium may be the heaviest gas in the periodic table, which makes it a topic of intense interest. The expensive and time involved in synthesizing ununoctium makes research on this element rather difficult; fortunately scientists do not need to worry immensely about the potential radiation hazard, as more than a few atoms are needed for serious radiation risks.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a All The Science researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon246910 — On Feb 11, 2012

Can ununoctium radiate toxins? Please explain now. It's for school.

By jennythelib — On Sep 13, 2011

@robbie21 - Noble gas just explains where it falls on the periodic table. My chemistry is very hazy (those Bunsen burners and plastic aprons were such a long time ago), but I think that has something to do with all the shells being full of electrons.

Because so little ununoctium has been synthesized, scientists really don't know much about it. Some actually think it might not be a gas at all, but a solid! (Which would make it awfully out of place in that "noble gas" column.)

These synthetic elements are really just toys for scientists! But you never know what they'll discover when they mess around, so I say let them have their toys! (Teflon, for instance, was discovered by accident.) Scientific discovery is worth some expense.

By robbie21 — On Sep 12, 2011

If it's radioactive, how can it be considered a nobel gas? My understanding was that the noble fases were very stable, and it sounds like the ununoctium element is very unstable. In the past, weren't the noble gasses actually called the inert gasses because they wouldn't react with anything?

(Or almost anything. They turned out not to be completely inert.)

It seems like if ununoctium is a man-made element, it can't be assumed to have the same properties as the other noble gases, which occur in nature.

By anon144145 — On Jan 18, 2011

What is this element used for?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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