Peter Schwerdtfeger and Heinz Gäggeler

The first Periodic Table of the Elements was proposed by Mendeleev in 1869, compiled on the basis of arranging the elements in ascending order of atomic weight and grouping them by similarity of chemical properties. He predicted the existence and properties of new elements. At that time it was not known how far in the atomic number we can go before an atom becomes too unstable and radioactively decay. A century later, it was assumed that the Periodic Table would end at nuclei with about 100 protons.

In the last decade we have seen the production of new elements for the Periodic Table up to nuclear charge 118, the so-called superheavy elements. They have fascinating chemical properties related to Einstein’s theory of relativity. Experiments on these exotic species are currently in progress at an atom-at-a-time scale. How far can we go? Where does the Period Table end? Can we do some chemistry with such exotic elements? What is the chemical and physical behavior of these exotic elements?

Peter is the Head of the Centre for Theoretical Chemistry and Physics at The New Zealand Institute for Advanced Study, Massey University Auckland. He is a recipient of the New Zealand Hector Memorial Medal, and the Humboldt Prize.

Heinz, a world expert in the field, is joining us from the Paul Scherrer Institute in Switzerland.

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