Some elements exist in several different structural forms, called allotropes. Each allotrope has different physical properties.

For more information on the Visual Elements image see the Uses and properties section below.



A vertical column in the periodic table. Members of a group typically have similar properties and electron configurations in their outer shell.

A horizontal row in the periodic table. The atomic number of each element increases by one, reading from left to right.

Elements are organised into blocks by the orbital type in which the outer electrons are found. These blocks are named for the characteristic spectra they produce: sharp (s), principal (p), diffuse (d), and fundamental (f).

Atomic number
The number of protons in an atom.

Electron configuration
The arrangements of electrons above the last (closed shell) noble gas.

Melting point
The temperature at which the solid–liquid phase change occurs.

Boiling point
The temperature at which the liquid–gas phase change occurs.

The transition of a substance directly from the solid to the gas phase without passing through a liquid phase.

Density (g cm−3)
Density is the mass of a substance that would fill 1 cm3 at room temperature.

Relative atomic mass
The mass of an atom relative to that of carbon-12. This is approximately the sum of the number of protons and neutrons in the nucleus. Where more than one isotope exists, the value given is the abundance weighted average.

Atoms of the same element with different numbers of neutrons.

CAS number
The Chemical Abstracts Service registry number is a unique identifier of a particular chemical, designed to prevent confusion arising from different languages and naming systems.

Fact box

Group Melting point Unknown 
Period Boiling point Unknown 
Block Density (g cm−3) Unknown 
Atomic number 106  Relative atomic mass [269]  
State at 20°C Solid  Key isotopes 271Sg 
Electron configuration [Rn] 5f146d47s2  CAS number 54038-81-2 
ChemSpider ID - ChemSpider is a free chemical structure database


Image explanation

Murray Robertson is the artist behind the images which make up Visual Elements. This is where the artist explains his interpretation of the element and the science behind the picture.


The description of the element in its natural form.

Biological role

The role of the element in humans, animals and plants.

Natural abundance

Where the element is most commonly found in nature, and how it is sourced commercially.

Uses and properties

Image explanation
The icon is an abstracted atomic symbol. The background is inspired by imagery from early and modern particle accelerators.
A radioactive metal that does not occur naturally. Only a few atoms have ever been made.
At present, it is only used in research.
Biological role
Seaborgium has no known biological role.
Natural abundance
Seaborgium is a transuranium element. It is created by bombarding californium-249 with oxygen-18 nuclei.
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In 1970, a team led by Albert Ghiorso at the Californian Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) bombarded californium with oxygen and was successful in producing element 106, isotope 263. In 1974, a team led by Georgy Flerov and Yuri Oganessian at the Russian Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (JINR) bombarded lead with chromium and obtained isotopes 259 and 260.

In September 1974, a team led by Ghiorso at LBNL produced isotope 263, with a half-life of 0.8 seconds, by bombarding californium with oxygen. Several atoms of seaborgium have since been made by this method which produces one seaborgium atom per hour.

Atomic radius, non-bonded
Half of the distance between two unbonded atoms of the same element when the electrostatic forces are balanced. These values were determined using several different methods.

Covalent radius
Half of the distance between two atoms within a single covalent bond. Values are given for typical oxidation number and coordination.

Electron affinity
The energy released when an electron is added to the neutral atom and a negative ion is formed.

Electronegativity (Pauling scale)
The tendency of an atom to attract electrons towards itself, expressed on a relative scale.

First ionisation energy
The minimum energy required to remove an electron from a neutral atom in its ground state.

Atomic data

Atomic radius, non-bonded (Å) Unknown Covalent radius (Å) 1.43
Electron affinity (kJ mol−1) Unknown Electronegativity
(Pauling scale)
Ionisation energies
(kJ mol−1)


Common oxidation states

The oxidation state of an atom is a measure of the degree of oxidation of an atom. It is defined as being the charge that an atom would have if all bonds were ionic. Uncombined elements have an oxidation state of 0. The sum of the oxidation states within a compound or ion must equal the overall charge.


Atoms of the same element with different numbers of neutrons.

Key for isotopes

Half life
  y years
  d days
  h hours
  m minutes
  s seconds
Mode of decay
  α alpha particle emission
  β negative beta (electron) emission
  β+ positron emission
  EC orbital electron capture
  sf spontaneous fission
  ββ double beta emission
  ECEC double orbital electron capture

Oxidation states and isotopes

Common oxidation states Unknown
Isotopes Isotope Atomic mass Natural abundance (%) Half life Mode of decay
  271Sg 271.134 - 2 m  α 


Data for this section been provided by the British Geological Survey.

Relative supply risk

An integrated supply risk index from 1 (very low risk) to 10 (very high risk). This is calculated by combining the scores for crustal abundance, reserve distribution, production concentration, substitutability, recycling rate and political stability scores.

Crustal abundance (ppm)

The number of atoms of the element per 1 million atoms of the Earth’s crust.

Recycling rate

The percentage of a commodity which is recycled. A higher recycling rate may reduce risk to supply.


The availability of suitable substitutes for a given commodity.
High = substitution not possible or very difficult.
Medium = substitution is possible but there may be an economic and/or performance impact
Low = substitution is possible with little or no economic and/or performance impact

Production concentration

The percentage of an element produced in the top producing country. The higher the value, the larger risk there is to supply.

Reserve distribution

The percentage of the world reserves located in the country with the largest reserves. The higher the value, the larger risk there is to supply.

Political stability of top producer

A percentile rank for the political stability of the top producing country, derived from World Bank governance indicators.

Political stability of top reserve holder

A percentile rank for the political stability of the country with the largest reserves, derived from World Bank governance indicators.



Specific heat capacity (J kg−1 K−1)

Specific heat capacity is the amount of energy needed to change the temperature of a kilogram of a substance by 1 K.

Young's modulus

A measure of the stiffness of a substance. It provides a measure of how difficult it is to extend a material, with a value given by the ratio of tensile strength to tensile strain.

Shear modulus

A measure of how difficult it is to deform a material. It is given by the ratio of the shear stress to the shear strain.

Bulk modulus

A measure of how difficult it is to compress a substance. It is given by the ratio of the pressure on a body to the fractional decrease in volume.

Vapour pressure

A measure of the propensity of a substance to evaporate. It is defined as the equilibrium pressure exerted by the gas produced above a substance in a closed system.

Pressure and temperature data – advanced

Specific heat capacity
(J kg−1 K−1)
Unknown Young's modulus (GPa) Unknown
Shear modulus (GPa) Unknown Bulk modulus (GPa) Unknown
Vapour pressure  
Temperature (K)
400 600 800 1000 1200 1400 1600 1800 2000 2200 2400
Pressure (Pa)
- - - - - - - - - - -
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Listen to Seaborgium Podcast
Transcript :

Chemistry in its element: seaborgium


You're listening to Chemistry in its element brought to you by Chemistry World, the magazine of the Royal Society of Chemistry.

(End promo)

Chris Smith
Hello, this week we're meeting a chemical that you won't find much of because at the most scientists have only ever managed to make just a handful of its atoms. It's named after the man who discovered plutonium and with it the fact that by crashing atoms into one another we can make entirely new elements. But this week's element is a controversial chemical and to explain why here's Phil Ball:

Phil Ball

Several elements are named after people. Many of the pioneers of nuclear physics and chemistry feature in the list of heavy, radioactive elements discovered since the mid-twentieth century: Ernest Rutherford, Marie Curie, Enrico Fermi, Niels Bohr.

But only two elements have been named after living people. One is element 99, einsteinium. The other is element 106, called seaborgium in honour of the American chemist Glenn Seaborg.

Seaborg's career spans from the age when scientists were only just beginning to understand what atoms are made of, to the quarks and gluons, superstrings and supercolliders of today. He was one of the select band of scientists who first glimpsed the awesome energies that lurked inside the atomic nucleus, which could be released slowly and controllably to power entire cities, or quickly to destroy them.

When Seaborg began his scientific career at the University of California at Berkeley in 1930s, the periodic table of elements was thought to stop at element 92, uranium. Scientists had discovered that elements could be transmuted in a kind of modern alchemy by firing subatomic particles at them in particle accelerators. Some particles might stick; others might break the nucleus into fragments. Either way, the number of protons in the target nucleus could change, making it a different element.

Enrico Fermi was the first to realise that this could offer a way to make new elements heavier than uranium. Such an element, neptunium or element 93, was identified in 1940, and in that same year Seaborg was one of a team at Berkeley that created the next in line: plutonium, element 94. The challenge was to separate the tiny quantities of these new, artificial elements from the rest of the debris, and Seaborg pioneered chemical methods for doing this.

In 1944 Seaborg and his colleagues added elements 95 and 96 to the list, and, after the Second World War, elements 97 and 98. It began to seem that there was no end to the new elements one could make in atom-crashing experiments.

But Seaborg wanted to know what they were like chemically. To judge from where they seemed to sit in the periodic table, the elements after number 89, actinium, should behave like transition metals. But Seaborg found that they didn't really do that, and in 1945 he suggested that they formed an entirely new series which he called the actinides. Several of his colleagues were scepticial, but he was right.

Seaborg's skill in developing essential chemical separation methods for these super-heavy human-made elements, along with the chemical intuition that allowed him to rewrite the Periodic Table, made him an obvious candidate for honouring with the name of a new element. That opportunity came when the Berkeley radiochemists established their priority to element 106. They had made it back in 1974 by firing oxygen ions at element 98, californium. But a Russian team claimed to have made it earlier that same year. It was not until 1993 that the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) decided that the Berkeley claim was stronger.

And so they got to name element 106, and proposed to call it seaborgium. But you can't do that, IUPAC said, because it is simply not done to name elements after living people. Don't be absurd, replied the American Chemical Society, which insisted that as far as it was concerned, element 106 was now seaborgium. In the face of such determination, IUPAC was forced to relent, and seaborgium went into Periodic Tables on the walls of chemistry labs worldwide.

And what's it like? In a marvellous experiment in 1997, an international team did Seaborg's legacy proud by finding out what kind of chemical compounds seaborgium forms. The two isotopes they studied decay radioactively with a half-life of no more than half a minute. And the nuclear collisions used to make them created only about one atom per hour. Yet, with just seven fleeting atoms of seaborgium to work with, the researchers figured out that it is a metal comparable to molybdenum and tungsten. In such virtuoso experiments we can see the Periodic Table continuing to exert its pattern even among the elements that nature never glimpsed.

Chris Smith

Phil Ball on seaborgium, the cheeky element that broke with tradition and dared to call itself after someone that wasn't dead. Next week we'll be finding out why a balloon bobbing on a string can reduce a chemist to tears.

Pete Wothers

We are all familiar with the lighter-than-air gas helium, but whenever I see a balloon floating on a string, I feel a little sad. It's not because I'm a miserable old so-and-so - it's just because, unlike the happy child on the other end of the string, I am aware of the valuable resource that's about to be lost forever.

Chris Smith

And Peter Wothers will be bringing us down to earth with the story of helium, next time. I do hope you can join us. I'm Chris Smith, thank you for listening and goodbye.


Chemistry in its element is brought to you by the Royal Society of Chemistry and produced by There's more information and other episodes of Chemistry in its element on our website at

(End promo)
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Visual Elements images and videos
© Murray Robertson 1998-2017.



W. M. Haynes, ed., CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics, CRC Press/Taylor and Francis, Boca Raton, FL, 95th Edition, Internet Version 2015, accessed December 2014.
Tables of Physical & Chemical Constants, Kaye & Laby Online, 16th edition, 1995. Version 1.0 (2005), accessed December 2014.
J. S. Coursey, D. J. Schwab, J. J. Tsai, and R. A. Dragoset, Atomic Weights and Isotopic Compositions (version 4.1), 2015, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD, accessed November 2016.
T. L. Cottrell, The Strengths of Chemical Bonds, Butterworth, London, 1954.


Uses and properties

John Emsley, Nature’s Building Blocks: An A-Z Guide to the Elements, Oxford University Press, New York, 2nd Edition, 2011.
Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility - Office of Science Education, It’s Elemental - The Periodic Table of Elements, accessed December 2014.
Periodic Table of Videos, accessed December 2014.


Supply risk data

Derived in part from material provided by the British Geological Survey © NERC.


History text

Elements 1-112, 114, 116 and 117 © John Emsley 2012. Elements 113, 115, 117 and 118 © Royal Society of Chemistry 2017.



Produced by The Naked Scientists.


Periodic Table of Videos

Created by video journalist Brady Haran working with chemists at The University of Nottingham.