Flerovium is a synthetic radioactive element with atomic number 114 and element symbol Fl. Even though it is a superheavy element, its high nuclear stability gives it a relatively long half-life (seconds rather than milliseconds). Its electron configuration might make it an incredibly heavy metallic gas, rather than a solid or liquid. Here is a collection of interesting flerovium facts, including its properties, discovery, and uses.
Basic Flerovium Facts
Atomic Number: 114
Element Symbol: Fl
Group: Group 14 (carbon group)
Period: Period 7
Element Family: Probably a post-transition metal, but possibly a metalloid
Atomic Mass: 
Electron Configuration: [Rn] 5f14 6d10 7s2 7p2 (predicted)
Electrons per Shell: 2, 8, 18, 32, 32, 18, 4 (predicted)
Discovery: Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (JINR, Russia) and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL, US) (1999)
Name Origin: Flerov Laboratory of Nuclear Reactions, named for Georgy Flyorov
History of Discovery
A team lead by Yuri Oganessian at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (JINR) in Dubna, Russia, first synthesized flerovium in December of 1998. The researchers bombarded a plutonium-244 target with calcium-48 nuclei to make flerovium-292, which decayed into flerovium-290 and then possibly into flerovium-289. Only a single atom was detected. Attempts to duplicate the experiment didn’t yield exactly the same products, so which flerovium isotope was created is uncertain.
In 1999, the team used a plutonium-242 target instead of a plutonium-244 one. This reaction yielded two flerovium atoms, which were identified as flerovium-287. This experiment verified the discovery of the new element, but repeating the experiment seemed to produce different decay products.
The element discovery wasn’t formally accepted until May of 2009, when the Joint Working Party (JWP) of the IUPAC acknowledged the discovery of copernicium. The decay scheme to make copernicium relied on a flerovium isotope, thus supporting the discovery of not one, but two new elements. After reviewing all of the data, the IUPAC awarded discovery of element 114 to the Russian team, which was working with scientists from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in the United States.
Prior to getting an official name, flerovium was called element 114, eka-lead, or ununquadium. The Dubna team chose the element name flerovium with element symbol Fl. Officially, the element is named after the Flerov Laboratory of Nuclear Reactions of the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna, Russia. The laboratory, in turn, was named after Soviet physicist Georgy Flyorov (Flerov). Flyorov was a co-discoverer of spontaneous fission and a key figure in USSR’s nuclear program. Element 114 was officially named flerovium on May 30, 2012.
The main flerovium isotopes and their half-lives are Fl-284 (2.5 ms), Fl-285 (0.10 s), Fl-286 (0.12 s), Fl-287 (0.48 s), Fl-288 (0.66 s), and Fl-289 (1.9 s). The isotope flerovium-290 has a predicted half-life of about 19 seconds, which is an incredibly long time for such a heavy nucleus. The higher stability should result from the “doubly magic” number of protons and neutrons in the Fl-290 nucleus. If Fl-290 turns out to have the expected half-life, it may help researchers understand and synthesize heavier elements on the “island of stability” with atomic numbers exceeding 118.
Flerovium is used for research into the properties of the superheavy elements. It is well-suited to the task, as some isotopes decay more slowly than other elements near it on the periodic table.
Biological Role and Toxicity
Flerovium doesn’t occur naturally, so it serves no biological role in any organism. Element 114 isn’t expected to be very reactive, so it might not be particularly toxic. However, it’s dangerous because it’s highly radioactive and potentially volatile enough to inhale.
Sources of Flerovium
Flerovium may be made in a nuclear research facility, either directly or as a decay product of an element with a higher atomic number. It does not occur naturally.
Because flerovium has a longer half-life than most of the superheavy elements, some empirical data about the element is available. However, most of its properties are predicted.
State at STP: Gas (predicted)
Density (liquid, at m.p.): 14 g/cm3 (predicted)
Boiling Point: ~ 210 K (~ −60 °C, ~ −80 °F) (predicted)
Heat of Vaporization: 38 kJ/mol (predicted)
Atomic Radius: 180 pm
Covalent Radius: 171–177 pm (predicted)
1st Ionization Energy: 832.2 kJ/mol
2nd Ionization Energy: 1600 kJ/mol
3rd Ionization Energy: 3370 kJ/mol
Oxidation States: (0), (+1), (+2), (+4), (+6) (predicted)
Crystal Structure: face-centered cubic (fcc) (predicted)
Interesting Flerovium Facts
- The element on the periodic table most similar to flerovium is probably lead, which is its homologue (element in the same group or column). The +2 predicted oxidation state of flerovium is based on this resemblance to lead. However, many of flerovium’s properties may be so different from other members of the carbon group that scientists might put flerovium and nihonium in their own special subperiod.
- Flerovium is the least-reactive element in its group, but it should readily form compounds.
- Early experiments indicated flerovium might behave somewhat like a noble gas, but more recent data indicates it is a volatile metal. It may be the first metal on the periodic table that is a gas at standard conditions (depending how you classify hydrogen).
- Emsley, John (2011). Nature’s Building Blocks: An A-Z Guide to the Elements (New ed.). New York, NY: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-960563-7.
- Oganessian, Yu. Ts.; et al. (1999). “Synthesis of Superheavy Nuclei in the 48Ca + 244Pu Reaction”. Physical Review Letters. 83 (16): 3154. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.83.3154
- Pershina, Valeria. “Theoretical Chemistry of the Heaviest Elements”. In Schädel, Matthias; Shaughnessy, Dawn (eds.). The Chemistry of Superheavy Elements (2nd ed.). Springer Science & Business Media. ISBN 9783642374661.
- Schwerdtfeger, Peter; Seth, Michael (2002). “Relativistic Quantum Chemistry of the Superheavy Elements. Closed-Shell Element 114 as a Case Study”. Journal of Nuclear and Radiochemical Sciences. 3 (1): 133–136. doi:10.14494/jnrs2000.3.133