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 109  Relative atomic mass [278]  
State at 20°C Solid  Key isotopes 276Mt 
Electron configuration [Rn] 5f146d77s2  CAS number 54038-01-6 
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
This abstract image is inspired by magnified images of atomic particles.
A highly radioactive metal, of which only a few atoms have ever been made.
At present it is only used in research.
Biological role
Meitnerium has no known biological role.
Natural abundance
Fewer than 10 atoms of meitnerium have ever been made, and it will probably never be isolated in observable quantities. It is made by bombarding bismuth with iron atoms.
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There are 7 isotopes of meitnerium with mass numbers in the range 266 to 279. The longest lived is isotope 278 with a half-life of 8 seconds. Meitnerium was first made in 1982 at the German nuclear research facility, the Gesellschaft für Schwerionenforschung (GSI), by a group headed by Peter Armbruster and Gottfried Münzenberg. They bombarded a target of bismuth with accelerated iron ions. After a week, a single atom of element 109, isotope 266, was detected. This underwent radioactive decay after 5 milliseconds.

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) 1.29
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
  276Mt 276.152 - ~ 0.7 s  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 Meitnerium Podcast
Transcript :

Chemistry in its element: meitnerium


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

(End promo)

Meera Senthilingam

This week an element not found in nature, but that's created atom by atom. And named after a well respected scientist. Here's Nik Kaltsoyannis.

Nik Kaltsoyannis

A flick through older chemistry textbooks, and even a quick look in some university chemistry lecture theatres, reveals a periodic table with only three rows of transition elements. These periodic tables typically stop at element 103 - lawrencium - which is the final element in the actinide, or 5f series. Toward the end of the 20th century, however, the extension of the periodic table beyond lawrencium, which had been well under way since the 1970s, was increasingly well recognised in the chemical community, and modern periodic tables feature a new row of elements situated in their rightful place at the foot of the transition metals. These transactinide, or 6d elements, begin with element 104, rutherfordium, which lives in group 4 under hafnium, and extend to element 112, very recently named copernicum, situated below mercury. Meitnerium, the topic of this podcast, with the symbol Mt and atomic number 109, sits in the middle of this band in group 9 underneath cobalt, rhodium and iridium.

Meitnerium and the other transactinide elements do not exist in Nature. They are all man-made and have been synthesised in only fantastically small quantities, by combining the atoms of two lighter elements. They are all highly radioactive, with very short half-lives, severely limiting the practical chemistry that can be performed on them. Indeed, entirely new experimental techniques, collectively known as "atom-at-a-time" methods, have been developed to study these elements. In these experiments we are not working with moles of atoms, or even recognisable fractions of moles, but literally with single atoms.

Meitnerium was named after the Austrian physicist Lise Meitner, born in Vienna in 1878. She managed, in very difficult circumstances, to graduate in physics with the equivalent of a PhD and in 1907 moved to the Kaiser Willhelm Institute in Berlin, to begin researching in the new field of radiochemistry. It was there that she met chemist Otto Hahn, with whom she had a long and productive scientific collaboration. In the 1930s, they worked together on irradiating uranium with neutrons, but before they were able to complete their studies the rise of Nazism forced Meitner, a Jew, to flee Germany in 1938. She moved to Stockholm and continued to communicate with Hahn frequently by letter. They were puzzled by the observation that barium was produced upon irradiation of uranium with neutrons, and it was not until Christmas of 1938 that Meitner, whilst walking with her nephew Otto Frisch, realised what was happening. The neutrons were causing the uranium nuclei to split, generating barium, an element with atoms a little over half the size of those of uranium. Meitner and Frisch predicted that krypton must be the other product of this fission reaction, and soon afterwards Frisch, upon returning to Copenhagen, verified this prediction.

Meitner spent the second world war in Sweden. It was an unhappy time for her, as there was little local interest in nuclear physics, and she clashed with her host, the Nobel prize winner Manne Siegbahn. She was horrified to learn of the atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the terrifying culmination of her discovery of nuclear fission. Shortly afterwards she received a different type of shock, when she heard that the 1944 Nobel prize for chemistry had been awarded solely to her long term collaborator Hahn. There is little doubt that her disagreements with host Siegbahn, together with her sex and religion, counted against her in the eyes of the committee. Although Hahn privately acknowledged her contribution by giving her half of the Nobel prize money, he refused to do so publicly, a further source of pain to her.

Recognition did eventually come to Meitner, including the 1946 US "Woman of the Year" award, and the prestigious Enrico Fermi award from the US atomic energy commission in 1966. She died in 1968, and is buried in Hampshire, for she spent her final years in England, to be near her nephew Frisch in Cambridge. In 1997 her scientific contributions were immortalised with the official adoption of the name meitnerium for element 109.

Meitnerium was first discovered in 1982 in Darmstadt, in what was then West Germany. A single atom was made by bombarding a target of bismuth with accelerated nuclei of iron, to make the isotope meitnerium-266, which has 157 neutrons in its nucleus, together with the 109 protons which define the element. No chemical experiments have ever been performed on meitnerium, because a sufficiently stable isotope has yet to be made. Meitnerium-266 has a half-life of just 1.7 milliseconds, and even the most stable known isotope, meitnerium-276, has a half-life of less than 1 second. Theoretical predictions tell us that meitnerium-271, which could be produced by reaction of uranium with chlorine, or berkelium with magnesium, may well have a sufficiently long half-life so as to allow atom-at-a-time chemistry to be performed, but meitnerium-271 has yet to be made. There is little doubt, however, that given the skill and ingenuity of the atom-at-a-time scientists, meitnerium will gain a chemistry, and that these achievements will be a fitting tribute to the remarkable woman who's name the element bears.

Meera Senthilingam

And a much deserved tribute indeed. That was University College London's Nik Kaltsoyannis with the unstable chemistry of meitnerium. Now in contrast, next week we have an element with some very long lived isotopes.

Samarium has several isotopes, four of which are stable and several of which are unstable. The half-lives of many of these are very short - on the order of a few seconds, but three - samarium-147, samarium-148 and samarium-149 have extremely long half-lives. Samarium-147 has a staggeringly long half-life - 1.76 x 1011 years, or in real money 106 billion years. Even by geological standards this gigantic figure is incomprehensible, especially if we remember that the earth itself is only a little under 14 billion years old.

Meera Senthilingam

And join science writer Richard Corfield to find out the uses of the long-lived isotopes of samarium as well as its shorter term ones in next week's Chemistry in its element. Until then I'm Meera Senthilingam from thenakedscientist dot com, thanks 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

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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.