Superheavy elements (those with Atomic mass >104) theoretically have so many protons that their outer electrons are “accelerated” to relativistic (~80% of the speed of light) “speeds”. (I put the “accelerated” and “speeds” in quotes because we all know the electrons do not really orbit the nucleus! – So whatever the quantum equivalent of that is.)
At relativistic speeds, things are heavier. This has now been experimentally verified for Seaborgium, element 106.
The team plans to test higher atomic number elements, where the effects should be even more pronounced. “The goal of our studies is to find out if relativistic effects change the chemical properties of the superheavy elements,” says Düllmann.
I am intrigued by this because we usually think of relativistic effects as being far outside our immediate environment. OK, the LHC is routinely accelerating particles to relativistic speeds, but here its happening almost within a test tube. Unfortunately superheavy elements decay after a very short time – the Seaborgium only hung together for about 10 seconds.