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Ununquadium is a radioactive chemical element classified among the transactinides on the periodic table of elements. It is one of the heaviest elements known to man, and it cannot be found in nature; ununquadium must be synthetically produced in the lab for scientists who wish to study it. This element is also extremely short-lived, rapidly decaying into more stable elements, typically within seconds of being synthesized. As with other elements in this situation, ununquadium has no current commercial uses, and this is unlikely to change, as even if stable isotopes can be produced, they will be extremely expensive and thus not terribly practical.
The chemical properties of this element are not well understood, since it is so difficult to study. It may share some traits with lead, and it certainly shares the trait of extreme instability with other transactinides. Several isotopes of this element have been synthesized and observed, albeit for very brief periods of time. It has an atomic number of 114, and it is currently identified on the periodic table of elements with the symbol Uuq; this may change after an official name is decided upon for this element.
Credit for the discovery of this element will probably go to researchers in Dubna, Russia, who produced it in 1998 by bombarding plutonium with calcium isotopes. It took another year for the scientists to repeat and confirm their findings, leading the publication and acceptance of the element in 1999. If the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) determines that these researchers deserve the credit for the discovery, they will be offered the honor of suggesting a name.
Ununquadium is a temporary name which is based on the element's atomic number; ununqua means “one one four” in Latin. Such names are typically used for newly discovered elements until credit for their discovery can be sorted out, ensuring that scientists use the same terminology worldwide. No names have been proposed for this element yet; common element names honor famous figures in science or their location of discovery, although “dubnium” is already taken.
When ununquadium is produced in the lab, scientists only have a few seconds to make observations about it. This requires careful strategic planning to ensure that this time is well utilized; typically a well coordinated scientific team is involved. Researchers hope that by exploring new ways to synthetically produce elements, they may be able to find an "island of stability," a set of more stable isotopes which could be studied for extended periods.