LIVERMORE -- While Livermore Mayor John Marchand may have physically been far from home during his recent weeklong trip to Russia, he was right at home with the reasons for his visit.
A longtime water quality chemist, Marchand toured the Moscow area in October to mark the occasion of the official naming of a newly discovered super-heavy element, livermorium. The synthetic element has the atomic number of 116.
The discovery of Element 116 -- named for the city and Lawrence Livermore Laboratory -- along with that of element 114 -- flerovium -- came as a result of a joint partnership between the Lawrence Livermore and the National Flerov Laboratory of Nuclear Reactions.
The Flerove lab is located at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna, Russia, a town about 80 miles north of Moscow.
The announcement that the two elements would be added to the periodic table came last December, and the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) adopted the names on May 31 of this year.
According to Marchand, the elements' naming underscored the collaborative work of the Russian and American labs. Grasping the moment's historical significance, when the director of the Flerov institute, Yuri Oganessian, asked Marchand to speak at a ceremony recognizing the achievement, the mayor jumped at the chance, saying he was "proud beyond words" to mark the elements' addition to the chart.
"It was absolutely a career high for me," Marchand said. "Chemistry has been my life for decades."
The mayor arrived in a freezing Moscow on Oct. 21, where he toured the Kremlin and Red Square and later met with some of the world's preeminent nuclear scientists at the Central Scientists' Club, including those from a delegation from Lawrence Livermore Lab.
At the club, he spoke at the International Colloquium of IUPAC, recognizing the addition of the elements and the contribution to chemistry by Russian scientist Dmitri Mendeelev.
Marchand, who was the city of Livermore's official representative at the event, also presented a proclamation to the mayor of Dubna, and similar proclamations to the Flerov institute and the president of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Marchand capped off his trip by touring the institute in Dubna.
Listed in the far right corner of the periodic chart, livermorium was created by bombarding curium targets with calcium at one-tenth the speed of light. For a brief moment, Marchand explained, the element is born, one that allows scientists a greater understanding of nuclear energy and takes science a step toward figuring out the building blocks of the universe.
Livermore joins a short list of cities to have an element named after them, including Berkeley -- the only other American city on the list -- and Dubna.
"This is the one time in history that Livermore will forever be on the table of elements," Marchand said. "We are in rare company, and it speaks to the caliber of science we're conducting here."
Contact Jeremy Thomas at 925-847-2184 or follow him at twitter.com/@jet_bang.