Why we don’t make new elements now
The periodic table is 150 years old, and there are 118 elements in it, but it’s been a while since the last new element was added. Will we ever have Element 119?
To refresh your school physics, these new elements do not occur in nature. Scientists create them in labs using power-hungry machines called particle accelerators. To make a heavy artificial element like seaborgium (106 protons), they could smash atoms of chromium (24 protons) into atoms of lead (82 protons), or atoms of oxygen (8 protons) into atoms of californium
(98 protons). If they are lucky, a minute quantity of seaborgium is formed.
That does not mean you can mash together any two atoms to make new elements indefinitely, and physicists seem to be close to the limit of what is possible. They are hopeful of finding not only Element 119 but also Element 120, but practical problems stand in the way.
For one, the last 20 synthetic elements, from einsteinium (99) to oganesson (118) are useless. They form and disintegrate in less than the blink of an eye. But that’s alright. The rule is: if a new atom survives for just one hundred-trillionth of a second, it can be recognised as a new element. The only reason physicists spend years searching for these unstable elements is to study their properties. But it’s a rather expensive hobby that governments are not keen to fund anymore.
How expensive? To create just 3 atoms of Element 112, the Riken research institute in Japan spent $3 million in electricity bills and salaries of technicians. Running the accelerator at the University of California, Berkeley costs $50,000 a day, and the elements needed for an experiment can cost many times more. For instance, when the team trying to create Element 117 sought a little bit of berkelium (97) from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, they were quoted a price of $3.5 million. They waited for more than three years to get it cheaper.
NOT WORTH IT: New elements cost millions of dollars to create but have no practical use