If you haven’t already done so, now’s the time to update your copy of the periodic table. Four new, radioactive elements, discovered in recent years, have now been named and added to the seventh row.
The four elements were temporarily known by the Latin for their atomic numbers. However, now they have been given new, permanent names which pay tribute to those responsible for discovering them.
The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) allows the discoverers of an element to submit proposed, permanent names. Each proposed name must, however, fall into one of five categories. The qualifying categories are mythological concepts or characters, minerals or substances, places or geographic regions, properties of the element or scientists.
With the symbol Nh, element 113 is now known as nihonium. Discovered by scientists from the RIKEN Nishina Center for Accelerator-based Science in Japan, ‘Nihon’ is one of two ways to say Japan in Japanese. Nihon literally means ‘the Land of the Rising Sun’ and the name is intended to make a direct connection to the nation where the element was discovered. Nihonium is the first element to be discovered in an Asian country.
Element 115 has been given the name moscovium and the symbol Mc. In line with the tradition of honouring a place or geographical region, the element was discovered by scientists at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna, which is near to Moscow.
Similarly, the inspiration for element 117’s name, tennessine, hails from the scientific contributions of the state of Tennessee to superheavy element research. Collectively, scientists from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Vanderbilt University and the University of Tennessee at Knoxville discovered the element, now known as tennessine and given the periodic symbol Ts.
For the element with atomic number 118, the collaborating teams of scientists at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California proposed the name oganesson and the symbol Og. This name honours the work of the Russian physicist, Professor Yuri Oganessian, a pioneer in the discovery of superheavy elements. He is only the second person to have an element named after him during his lifetime.
The names were up for public comment for a period of five months. True to form, when asked their opinion, members of the public never disappoint. Whether wishing to name a polar research vessel ‘Boaty McBoatface’ or public calls to rename one of the recently discovered elements ‘lemmium’ in honour of the heavy metal band Motörhead’s frontman, the business of science isn’t always taken seriously. ‘Lemmium,’ however, failed to meet the qualifying naming criteria and time is up for further potential public objections. Formal approval by the IUPAC Council was announced earlier this month and the four new elements were officially introduced as nihonium, moscovium, tennessine and oganesson.
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