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Welcoming the Four Newest Elements

The periodic table is a very familiar sight for many people, and almost all of us have spent a lot of time staring at it in Chemistry classes during our time in high school or college. The periodic table is an extremely important tool and is a great way to help students visualize a large volume of information about the elements and their relationship with each other.

During your time learning about the periodic table, you probably didn’t spend much time looking at the elements with an atomic number of 90 or higher. Likewise, depending on how up-to-date your table was, there were probably more than a few elements that had not been numbered or were undiscovered altogether. However, this has changed.

Naming an element after its discovery is a very important part of the process and the official decision is made by International Union of Pure & Applied Chemistry (IUPAC). IUPAC has a set of rules that help the team that discovered the element name it in an appropriate way. A new element can be named after a place, a myth, a mineral, a scientist, or a property of the element. This leads to some pretty interesting names. For example, elements 92-94 Uranium, Neptunium, and Plutonium were named to coincide with the planets Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. Einsteinium, an element found in the aftermath of the first hydrogen bomb explosion, was named after Albert Einstein. Lastly, Berkelium and Californium were both first discovered at the University of California, Berkeley and named after the town of Berkeley and the state of California.

This brings us to elements 113, 115, 117, and 118 which have now been officially named, and have finished the seventh row of the periodic table.

Formally using the placeholder name Ununtrium, element 113 will be named Nihonium (nee-HOH’-nee-un) and its symbol will be Nh. Nihonium was discovered at the RIKEN Nishina Center for Accelerator-Based Science in Japan. The Nihon in Nihonium is one way to say “Japan” in Japanese and translates into “the land of the Rising Sun.” The discovery of element 113 has been a proud moment for Japan and Asia as a whole; it marks the first element discovered by any Asian country.

Next up, elements 115 and 117 were discovered in a joint effort between laboratories in Russia and the USA. The names chosen were Moscovium (mah-SKOM’-vee-u) with the symbol Mc for element 115 and Tennessine (TEH’-neh-seen) with the symbol Ts for element 117. Moscovium was chosen to celebrate the city of Moscow and the surrounding area that is home to the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research, which made major contributions to the discovery. Likewise, Tennessine was named to honor Tennessee. Tennessee is home to three institutions that helped discover these elements, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Vanderbilt University, and the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.

Lastly, element 118, currently the heaviest element, was named Oganesson (OH’-gah-NEH’sun) with the symbol Og. This element was named after Yuri Oganessian, who helped make extremely important advances in transactinide element research. Additionally, Oganessian is now the second person to have an element named after him while still alive.

Naturally, the next question is are we done? Have we finished the periodic table? And for now, the answer is no, we still have elements that need to be discovered. We have, however, finished the seventh period of the table and are now moving on to the eighth.

Moving into the future, things could get very interesting. As of right now, newly discovered elements have been extremely unstable and only existed for a few fractions of a second. But this could change soon. Some predictions show that it may be possible for some heavier elements to be stable for longer periods of time. This could prove to be extremely important for learning about the structure of super-heavy elements.

 

The Current Parodic table with all 188 elements found at http://www.ptable.com/

 

References:

Ball, Philip. "How Many More Chemical Elements Are There for Us to Find?" BBC. BBC, 15 Jan. 2016.

Web. 2 Sept. 2016.

"IUPAC IS NAMING THE FOUR NEW ELEMENTS NIHONIUM, MOSCOVIUM, TENNESSINE, AND

OGANESSON." IUPAC. International Union of Pure & Applied Chemistry, 8 June 2016. Web. 1 Sept. 2016.

"New Element In Periodic Table To Be Named After Armenian Physicist." Asbarez. Asbarez, 9 June 2016.

Web. 1 Sept. 2016.

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