KYUSHU UNIVERSITY 先生の森KYUSHU UNIVERSITY 先生の森

I want to continue to be at the  forefront of research and contribute  to science now and in the future.Professor, Faculty of Science Kosuke MoritaI want to continue to be at the  forefront of research and contribute  to science now and in the future.Professor, Faculty of Science Kosuke Morita

Professor, Faculty of Science

Kosuke Morita

Professor Morita was the first Asian responsible for the discovery of the new element 113. This great achievement marked the first time that an element originating in Japan had been recognized and named. Nihonium, as inscribed in the periodic table of elements, made the professor a front-runner in the field of element research which garners attention globally. His colleagues adored him for being a father figure to them while students regard him as approachable when they seek academic and personal advices.

Professor Morita was the first Asian responsible for the discovery of the new element 113. This great achievement marked the first time that an element originating in Japan had been recognized and named. Nihonium, as inscribed in the periodic table of elements, made the professor a front-runner in the field of element research which garners attention globally. His colleagues adored him for being a father figure to them while students regard him as approachable when they seek academic and personal advices.

Profile Details

From Kitakyushu City, Fukuoka Prefecture. While he was at elementary school, his attention was engrossed in an experiment kit that came free with a magazine that eventually led him to join the chemistry club in his junior high school. During high school, he became aware of the fascination held by the basic laws of physics and entered the Department of Physics at Kyushu University's Faculty of Science. In his university years, applying his assiduous trait in judo to his research cultivated his tenaciousness. Leaving Kyushu University in 1984 after completing a doctoral program in the Graduate School of Science without receiving a degree, he became a postdoctoral researcher at RIKEN and then a junior research scientist in RIKEN's Cyclotron Laboratory. He was promoted to research scientist in 1991 and senior research scientist in 1993. Since 2013, he has been a professor in Kyushu University's Faculty of Science, while concurrently holding the part-time position of group director of the Research Group for Superheavy Element at RIKEN. Professor Morita succeeded in synthesizing new element 113 thrice; in 2004, 2005, and 2012, and his achievement has been officially recognized by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC), which awarded him the naming rights in 2015. He has been the recipient of many awards, including the 2016 Japan Academy Prize. Moreover, he has some unusual quirks as a scientist, such as his strict adherence to superstitions about the number 113 during the 13 years he spent working on discovering the new element.

What is your research about?What is your research about?

In 1984, Professor Morita participated in Physics.He was proud of his world-leading researches and pushed forward with his works constantly.

Nihonium (Nh), the official name of an atomic element 113, has been added to the Periodic Table.(As of September, 2012)

He seeks to detect new elements using cutting-edge accelerators and separators.It is amazing that Professor Morita made those devices by his own knowledge.

In 1984, Professor Morita participated in Physics.He was proud of his world-leading researches and pushed forward with his works constantly.

The main theme of my research is searching for new superheavy elements. A concept that exhibits the constituents of matter is called an element, while its substance is an atom. An atom is the smallest unit of which things are composed; all matter that exists in our world is made up of various atoms that have formed chemical bonds with each other.

Nihonium (Nh), the official name of an atomic element 113, has been added to the Periodic Table.(As of September, 2012)

Atoms are composed of a central nucleus, surrounded by electrons. The nucleus consists of protons, which have a positive charge, and neutrons. Protons and the negatively charged electrons that surround them are attracted to each other, but protons have a mass 1,840 times greater than electrons. The atomic number of each element indicates the number of protons that it has; the higher the number, the heavier the element. The elements that occur naturally on Earth in a stable form range all the way up to uranium, whose atomic number is 92. Elements with atomic numbers higher than that must be created by synthesizing them from other elements. Success in synthesizing a new element in this way is referred to as the discovery of a new element.

He seeks to detect new elements using cutting-edge accelerators and separators.It is amazing that Professor Morita made those devices by his own knowledge.

Elements with the number 104 or higher are referred to as superheavy elements; the heavier the element, the harder it is to synthesize. When protons are packed tightly into a nucleus, the electrical repulsion between the positively charged protons is very strong and the nucleus becomes unstable, making it more fragile and reducing its life. New elements are synthesized by colliding two nuclei with relatively stable lives to cause nuclear fusion. You could say that the biggest difficulty in synthesizing – that is to say, discovering – a superheavy element is the fact that a nucleus is very small, just one-trillionth of a centimeter across, and even if the two nuclei collide, the probability of their fusion is very low, only 1 in 100 trillion.

We synthesized element 113 by accelerating a beam of zinc nuclei (atomic number 30) in an accelerator and colliding it into a bismuth (atomic number 83) target. As a result of around 4 trillion collisions over nine years, we succeeded in synthesizing it three times, leading to its recognition as a new element. Elements up to atomic number 118 have now been discovered, so our team is currently engaged in ongoing experiments aimed at discovering 119 and 120. Countries across the globe compete with each other to discover new superheavy elements, so we have to be on top of our game 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The existence of elements up to 172 has been posited in theory, but they say that in reality, 130 or so is about the limit. New accelerators and separators also need to be developed at the same time, so constant progress is required in all areas. We also know that past 172, a zone called the "island of stability" appears, which has not yet been reached by humanity. It is said that if these have a special number of protons, the element's life will increase sharply to anywhere between 300 and 500 years. The life of element 113 is two-thousandths of a second. While the path ahead of us will be long, we will of course explore its possibilities.

The key to this research course is here!!The key to this research course is here!!

The tremendous feeling of excitement when I discovered a world-first. The tremendous feeling of excitement when I discovered a world-first.

Hardly any discoveries in basic research have a direct impact on daily life. Digging down further in basic research does not yield knowledge that will be of use immediately, or even in the near future, but could lead to something at some distant stage in the future. The new element that I discovered through my research might benefit humanity decades or centuries from now. For example, the machines now used as a matter of course in hospitals for MRI and CT scans would not exist if our ancestors had not discovered new elements. The process of basic research itself leads to the development of science and technology and social advances.

Cutting-edge accelerators and separators are required for the discovery of new elements. Wanting to discover a new element that nobody on Earth had ever seen before, using apparatus that I had made with my own two hands, I studied mechanical engineering from scratch and designed a big piece of equipment. The heart-pounding excitement that I felt when I discovered a world-first phenomenon inside that apparatus was overwhelming. The new element that I discovered after so much toil and effort will be inscribed in the periodic table, which one could describe as a common global legend handed down since yesteryear, and passed on through future generations in perpetuity. The foundations of science were laid by humans, the only intelligent life on earth, and the periodic table is one of humankind's assets. My sense of joy and pride that one seat at that table has been occupied thanks to the work of a Japanese national is incalculable.

DAILY SCHEDULEDAILY SCHEDULE


Time-out Session

The professor enjoys cooking. “I just follow recipes,” he says, modestly, but he seems to have taken it to quite a high level, making snacks braised in wine to accompany his drink each evening! On days off, he invites students to his home, offering them homemade chirashizushi (sushi rice topped with assorted ingredients). Students often ask when he is going to have another gathering.Professor Toko said, “For me, there is no such concept as off-time or holidays. The distinction between work and private time, between weekdays and weekends, is vague and I also go to the university on Saturdays and Sundays. Every day is spent at around the same even pace. Thus, I never have ‘one spare hour.’ Please forgive me!”

The Teacher's Must-have Items!The Teacher's Must-have Items!

Chronological Scientific Tables

The Chronological Scientific Tables are updated each year and he says he must have them to hand at all times. They contain information such as physical constants, so he uses them for calculations, when necessary.

Dictionary

The professor is an analogue man when it comes to dictionaries. He recommends his favorite English dictionary, Kenkyusha's monolingual English dictionary (which has English words defined and explained in English), which he needs when writing academic papers.

Linguistic ability and communication skills

"Researchers can't research alone, so teamwork's important," says Professor Morita. As a researcher who travels all over the world, linguistic ability is also a must-have item. On top of that, "As well as curiosity, a sense of humility toward nature and people is essential."

Message to the StudentsMessage to the Students

Follow the path that excites you and makes your pulse race, and believe in yourself.

I think that genius is the ability to maintain an interest in one single thing. I want you to pursue what you love and what you find interesting through to the very end. And always think hard about what it is you do not understand.

When I started out on research, I thought I would be able to discover a new element much sooner, but it took quite a long time. However, I never lost heart. In research, you cannot see what the future holds, but it is important to set goals at each stage and to achieve these without fail.

My ultimate goal was to discover a new element with world-first apparatus, so I made steady progress, step by step. As you build up successful experiences, your sense of heart-pounding excitement will progressively grow. Even when you are just building up a record of achieving small goals, you still feel as though you are forging ahead of the rest of the world. That feeling helped to sustain my motivation. I hope that all of you students will get to taste that feeling. It is important to believe that what you are doing is right and to have faith in yourself. Because if you do, you can be patient. Because if you are patient, success will certainly come, without fail.

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