Professor Sigurd Hofmann led the team that discovered element 112, which is around 227 times heavier than hydrogen - the heaviest element in the periodic table.
'We are delighted that now the sixth element - and thus all of the elements discovered at GSI during the past 30 years - has been officially recognised,' Professor Hofmann commented. 'During the next few weeks, the scientists of the discovering team will deliberate on a new name for the new element.'
A total of 21 scientists from Finland, Germany, Russia and Slovakia participated in the experiments that focused on the new element.
By using the GSI heavy ion accelerator, the central instrument for research at the Centre, Professor Hofmann's international team successfully created the first atom of element 112 in 1996. Only six years later, the team was able to produce yet another atom.
To give further weight to the GSI experiments, scientists at the RIKEN Discovery Research Institute in Japan also conducted experiments and produced more atoms of element 112. Their work clearly confirmed the discovery made by the Hofmann team.
The production of element 112 atoms was made possible because the team accelerated charged zinc atoms (i.e. zinc ions) with the 120-metre-long particle accelerator and 'fired' them onto a lead target.
According to the scientists, the nucleus of the new element was formed with the nuclear fusion of the zinc and lead nuclei. They called it element 112 because its so-called atomic number 112 is the sum of the atomic numbers of the two initial elements: zinc has the atomic number 30 and lead the atomic number 82.
The atomic number is equal to the number of protons in an atom's nucleus. The neutrons that are located in the nucleus have no impact on the classification of the element, according to the scientists. The 112 electrons orbiting the nucleus effectively determine the new element's chemical properties.
The GSI accelerator has been used in experiments since 1981 and scientists there have successfully discovered six chemical elements carrying the atomic numbers 107 to 112. The official names of the elements are 107 Bohrium, 108 Hassium, 109 Meitnerium, 110 Darmstadtium and 111 Roentgenium.