Four New Elements

The Periodic Table has been extended and we now have four new elements on it. Here is an illustration of them (via Phil Plate) …

Periodic Table

The Official Press Release

So who gets to pick such things?

The answer is that the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) does this, and the process involved is described within their 1991 guidelines. 

The last time elements were named and accepted accepted was flerovium (element 114) and livermorium (element 116), both named on 31 May 2012, and so this latest addition of 113, 115, 117 and 118 is now the latest proposed extension.

To be clear, this is not yet a completely done deal, as explained within the IUPAC press release …

Following earlier reports that the claims for discovery of these elements have been fulfilled [1, 2], the discoverers have been invited to propose names and the following are now disclosed for public review:

  • Nihonium and symbol Nh, for the element 113,
  • Moscovium and symbol Mc, for the element 115,
  • Tennessine and symbol Ts, for the element 117, and
  • Oganesson and symbol Og, for the element 118.

The IUPAC Inorganic Chemistry Division has reviewed and considered these proposals and recommends these for acceptance. A five-month public review is now set, expiring 8 November 2016, prior to the formal approval by the IUPAC Council.

Why Those names?

Well, the IUPAC does have some very specific naming guidance …

newly discovered elements can be named after:

(a) a mythological concept or character (including an astronomical object),

(b) a mineral or similar substance,

(c) a place, or geographical region,

(d) a property of the element, or

(e) a scientist.

The names of all new elements in general would have an ending that reflects and maintains historical and chemical consistency. This would be in general “-ium” for elements belonging to groups 1-16, “-ine” for elements of group 17 and  “-on” for elements of group 18. Finally, the names for new chemical elements in English should allow proper translation into other major languages.

OK, so what is the story behind these proposed new names?

Well, luckily the press release gives us some insights, the first three are geographically inspired names …

For the element with atomic number 113 the discoverers at RIKEN Nishina Center for Accelerator- Based Science (Japan) proposed the name nihonium and the symbol Nh. Nihon is one of the two ways to say “Japan” in Japanese, and literally mean “the Land of Rising Sun”. The name is proposed to make a direct connection to the nation where the element was discovered.

For the element with atomic number 115 the name proposed is moscovium with the symbol Mc and for element with atomic number 117, the name proposed is tennessine with the symbol Ts. These are in line with tradition honoring a place or geographical region and are proposed jointly by the discoverers at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research, Dubna (Russia), Oak Ridge National Laboratory (USA), Vanderbilt University (USA) and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (USA).

… and the last one is named after a living individual …

For the element with atomic number 118 the collaborating teams of discoverers at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research, Dubna (Russia) and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (USA) proposed the name oganesson and symbol Og. The proposal is in line with the tradition of honoring a scientist and recognizes Professor Yuri Oganessian (born 1933) for his pioneering contributions to transactinoid elements research. His many achievements include the discovery of superheavy elements and significant advances in the nuclear physics of superheavy nuclei including experimental evidence for the “island of stability”.

It is wholly appropriate because he is very much the world-leader in the field of synthesizing and exploring new elements.

Remember now, this is provisional and will not be final until 8th Nov 2016.

Other Proposed names

There were a few other proposed names that did not make the cut, and so if you feel passionate about any of these, well the public review is still open.

Not so serious …

  • Wh – Whatarethosium
  • Pn – PartyAllNightium
  • S – Sneezium

Serious proposals that unfortunately did not make the cut …

  • Go – Godzillium (this was a real suggestion, and is a nice fit for an element that is unnatural, radioactive and rapidly self-destructive)
  • Narcissism – A element with a self-inflated view of its actual practical value

But perhaps the real disappointment is that we did not get this …

  • EmE – Elementy McElementface

Next stop … row 8 .. and I’m really not kidding.

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