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 12  Melting point Unknown 
Period Boiling point Unknown 
Block Density (g cm−3) Unknown 
Atomic number 112  Relative atomic mass [285]  
State at 20°C Solid  Key isotopes 285Cn 
Electron configuration [Rn] 5f146d107s2  CAS number 54084-26-3 
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
Although copernicium was only recently ‘discovered’, it is named after Nicolaus Copernicus, an influential 16th century astronomer. This image brings together a 17th century star chart, concentric rings inspired by the solar system, a silvery metallic form, and the ground plan of the heavy ion accelerator where the element was first created.
A highly radioactive metal, of which only a few atoms have ever been made. It is thought to be unreactive and more like a noble gas than a metal.
At present, it is only used in research.
Biological role
It has no known biological role.
Natural abundance
Copernicium is a man-made element of which only a few atoms have ever been made. It is formed by fusing lead and zinc atoms in a heavy ion accelerator.
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The first atoms of element 112 were announced by Sigurd Hofmann and produced at the Gesellschaft fur Schwerionenforschung (GSI) at Darmstadt, Germany, in 1996. Isotope-277 had been produced by bombarding lead for two weeks with zinc travelling at 30,000 km per second. Isotope-277 had a half-life of 0.24 milliseconds.

Since then, other isotopes of copernicium have been made. Isotope-285 was observed as part of the decay sequence of flerovium (element 114) produced at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (JINR) at Dubna, Russia, as was isotope-284 which was observed as part of the decay sequence of livermorium (element 116).

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) 1.22
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
  285Cn 285.177 - ~ 29 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 Copernicium Podcast
Transcript :

Chemistry in its element: copernicium


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 so new that it's yet to be given an official name and it's discovery all began with a question. Here's Sigurd Hofmann.

Sigurd Hofmann

Our question is simple, but difficult to answer. What we want to know is how many elements are there or where is the end of the periodic table?

The elements beyond uranium (those with an atomic number greater than 92) are not found in nature because they have short half-lives, meaning they exist for only very short periods of time before they decay. So, if we want to know how many of these elements, called the transuranium elements exist we have to try and make them in the laboratory.

My team at the Institute for Heavy Ion Research in Darmstadt, Germany are one of many groups worldwide involved in 'searching' for more man-made elements and in 1996 we set about producing element 112, inside a particle accelerator. We bombarded a lead target - that has 82 protons - with a zinc beam containing 30 protons for one week, and were able to detect a single atom of an element with 112 protons - element 112.

As is standard for these types of experiments, we used isotopes of zinc and lead with high numbers of neutrons. Our zinc nuclei had 40 neutrons and our lead nuclei had 126 neutrons, so that the nucleus of our new element had 112 protons and 166 neutrons, meaning that it had 278 nucleons or, as it is more commonly described, an atomic mass of 278.

But like many chemical reactions this nuclear fusion reaction is exothermic and the newly created nucleus is hot. So, it cools down by emission of one neutron and the nucleus which we were able to study had the atomic mass number 277. We were only able to make a single atom of this element at this time, because the immensely strong electric forces acting the zinc and lead mean they are much more likely to fly apart than fuse together.

In a second experiment in 2000 we were able to measure a second atom of element 112, and then in 2004 scientists working at RIKEN in Japan produced another two atoms of this element. After confirmation by the Japanese group, IUPAC - the association who ratify newly found elements - officially recognised my team as the discoverers of this element and in April 2009 we were asked to suggest a name for it, as it currently goes by the IUPAC systematic name Ununbium. We selected a name through email correspondence between the 21 researchers from four nations involved in the experiments. Also seriously considered were suggestions from students and scientists, posted on the Chemistry World blog site, within four weeks, we selected the astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus to give his name to element 112.

Nicolaus Copernicus lived in the period of the transition from the middle ages to modern times. His work had exceptional influence on the political and philosophical thinking of people and on the rise of modern science based on the results of experiments. Nicolaus Copernicus developed a conclusive model for the complex astronomical observations of the movements of Sun, Moon, planets and stars on Heaven's Sphere. The first two of the laboratory created transuranium elements, neptunium and plutonium, received their names like uranium from the planets. So, to honour the father of the planetary system we suggested that element 112 was named after Copernicus. The name we suggested to IUPAC in July this year is 'copernicium', with the abbreviation Cn. Apparently IUPAC are also currently discussing modifying the name to 'copernicum', as it is easier to say in many languages.

Chemically copernicium is located in group 12 of the Periodic Table - below zinc, cadmium and mercury and the first experiments using the adsorption of a few atoms of the element on a cold gold surface showed that copernicium behaves chemically like mercury, although it is possibly a little bit more volatile. We also believe that it will be liquid at room temperature. So far element copernicium has not found any practical uses, because of the problems associated with making it and the fact it decays within milliseconds or seconds. However, its detection has paved the way to finding heavier elements still, the so called super heavy elements. For these elements theory predicts longer lifetimes and higher stability.

Meera Senthilingam

So watch this space to find out if element 112 is indeed named copernicium and if any more super heavy elements will be added to the Periodic Table. That was Sigurd Hofmann from the GSI Helmolt Centre for Heavy Ion Research in Germany. Now staying on the theme of elemental discoveries, next week we hear about Palladium whose discoverer William Hyde-Wollaston announced his finding in a very unusual manner.

Simon Cotton

When he isolated this metal in 1802, he did something quite unique. Instead of announcing it in a reputable scientific journal, he described its properties in an anonymous leaflet, displayed in the window of a shop in Gerrard Street, Soho in April 1803. Entitled Palladium; or New Silver, this handbill described properties of the new element. No one was able to refute Wollaston's claim for a new element, but it was not until 1805 that he published his discovery in a scientific journal.

Meera Senthilingam

Simon Cotton will be explaining more about the discovery, chemistry and properties of palladium in next week's Chemistry in its element. Until then I'm Meera Senthilingam and thank you for listening.


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.