Livermorium goes down in the history books

Laboratory employees and city officials celebrated the discovery of the two heaviest elements on the periodic table -- 114, Flerovium, and 116, Livermorium -- during a daylong celebration Monday.

The day started with a colloquium hosted by the Laboratory, titled "Elemental Science: Livermorium and the Periodic Table," with distinguished lecturers in the Bldg. 123 auditorium. Congressman Eric Swalwell and LLNL Director Parney Albright kicked off the celebration acknowledging the collaboration between Lawrence Livermore scientists and researchers from the Flerov Institute in Dubna, Russia, who discovered six heavy elements (113-118) including the latest Flerovium and Livermorium. Earlier in the day, Swalwell presented a certificate of appreciation to the LLNL scientists responsible for discovering Livermorium.

"This signifies a scientific breakthrough and captures the imagination of the next generation like landing on the moon or the mission to Mars," Swalwell said. "They say that diamonds last forever and now, with the naming of this new element, so does Livermore."

Speakers at the colloquium included: Ken Moody, an LLNL nuclear chemist who has spent his career searching for and discovering the heaviest elements; Witek Nazarewicz, an Oak Ridge National Laboratory nuclear theorist who works on developing a deeper understanding of nuclei and the limits of nuclear stability; and Walter Loveland, an Oregon State University nuclear chemist whose research focuses on understanding the dynamics and thermodynamics of nuclear reactions.

Moody discussed the history of heavy element research and the long-standing collaboration that Livermore has with the Flerov Institute in Dubna.

"A collection of people with good will and shared vision can make wonderful things happen," Moody said.

Nazarewicz talked about the bounds of the right side of the periodic table, where the heaviest elements reside. "We have limits about how far we can go in this direction," he said.

Loveland discussed how the chemical elements are the fundamental building blocks of nature. He said of the 118 elements on the periodic table, 30 are manmade. "Man has expanded the fundamental building blocks by one-third. The periodic table is a living document. Livermorium will live on forever even if the city of Livermore doesn't."

At the end of the colloquium, Albright presented individual appreciation certificates and special commemorative bottles of "Livermorium" wine to the LLNL element discovery members, including: Dawn Shaughnessy, Ken Moody, Jackie Keneally, Mark Stoyer, Nancy Stoyer, Ron Lougheed (retired), Jerry Landrum (retired) and Carola Gregorich (now working at AREVA). John Wild (deceased), Joshua Patin (now working at Schaffer Labs) and Philip Wilk (now working at DOE Basic Energy Sciences) also were members of the team.

Following the colloquium, the City of Livermore hosted a dedication ceremony in downtown Livermore at the plaza located at 116 S. Livermore Ave. (corner of First Street and Livermore Avenue). Livermore Mayor John Marchand renamed the locale as Livermorium Plaza and introduced a special plaque dedicated the discovery team. Marchand presented a Livermorium flag to Albright in recognition of the latest element being named for LLNL and the city of Livermore.

"I'm in awe of the science and the boundaries you've broken," Marchand said of the discovery team." We are in rare company because there are only six cities in which an element is named after them."

Marchand presented a proclamation to Albright, Mark Cesa, vice president of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC the governing body that approves the naming of elements) and Dubna Mayor Valeriy Prokh, deeming May 30 as Livermorium day in commemoration of IUPAC adopting the names Flerovium and Livermorium on May 30, 2012.

He also recognized the Russian scientists -- Sergey Dmitriev, Krunoslav Subotic and Vladimir Utenkov of the Flerov Laboratory of Nuclear Reactions -- and the other Dubna city officials -- Irina Kotolevskaya and Sergey Ryabov -- who attended the event.