Four New Elements to be Officially Added!

Interesting Engineering

Four new elements discovered earlier this year have all been officially named and will be added to the periodic table later this year.

Earlier this year, four new elements including elements 113, 115, 117 and 118 were officially added to the periodic table, completing its seventh row. The elements were penciled in place of where they were expected to fall for many years. Now, thanks to multiple experts, the elements have been confirmed to exist, but officially remained nameless up until June 8th. The official decision to make the addition of the elements came from The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC), headquartered in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, where they announced the group's unanimous decision to amend the periodic table on the 30th of December.

The elements were created in a lab by smashing atomic nuclei together. The elements were incredibly unstable, lasting mere fractions of a second before decaying into smaller and more stable fragments. Following the creation of the elements, names were proposed on what they should officially be named. The names, Nihonium (Nh); element 115, Moscovium (Mc); element 117, Tennessine (Ts); and element 118, Oganesson (Og), were decided on and are set to be added by the official chemistry governing body- IUPAC- as of June 8th.

particle acceleratorInside a particle accelerator where atoms are fused together to create new elements [Image Source: CERN]

To name an element, there are strict constraints that must be followed such as naming the element after a chemical or physical property, a mythological concept, a mineral, a place or country, or a scientist.

“Although these choices may perhaps be viewed by some as slightly self-indulgent, the names are completely in accordance with IUPAC rules,”

Says Jan Reedijk, president of IUPAC’s inorganic chemistry division.

Perhaps one of the most striking names is that of element 118, Oganesson. It is named after Yuri Oganessian, an 83-year-old researcher who helped discover multiple superheavy elements. The naming will mark the second time an element was named after a living scientist. Previously, element 106 (seaborgium) came under heavy scrutiny after the element was suggested to be named after US nuclear-chemistry pioneer Glenn Seaborg. Despite the proposal being rejected by the IUPAC committee, the decision was ultimately passed.

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Moscovium (115)- named after the famous Russian region Moscow- honors “the ancient Russian land that is the home of the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research”, says IUPAC. Element Tennessine (117) “is in recognition of the contribution of the Tennessee region, including Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Vanderbilt University, and the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, to superheavy element research”, IUPAC continues. The discovery of the two elements is credited to a collaboration between the JINR, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, California, and the Oak Ridge laboratory.

Element 113, Nihonium, also marks history as being the first artificial element to be named in East Asia. The creation of the element was first claimed 12 years ago by a scientific team at the RIKEN Nishina Center for Accelerator-based Science in Wako. The element was first proposed to be named ‘Japonium’, however, the RIKEN group (who came up with a more convincing report of the discovery in 2012) decided on Nihonium instead: Nihon (日本) is another way to say ‘Japan’ in Japanese.

All the elements, including other recent additions such as  flerovium (Fl, 114) and livermorium (Lv, 116) were all created in trace amounts inside laboratories. All the elements were extremely unstable and decayed into smaller and more stable fragments.
IUPAC has confirmed the proposed names viability but is allowing five months for public comment on the suggestions. However, unless there is a public conflict, the names will be passed through in November.