It’s been four years since we last changed the table that defines everything that we know exists in the universe, but the periodic table is about to change again with the discovery of four new elements.
The four new elements have been officially confirmed as additions to the periodic table following their acceptance by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) on 30 December.
According to the IUPAC’s release on the news, the four new elements were discovered by a team from Japan and a joint US-Russian team. All four exist on the periodic table’s seventh row, and all currently have rather strange-sounding temporary names.
The element discovered by the Japanese RIKEN team, element 113 – to be known as ununtrium, or Uut for short, until officially named – will be the first element to be named in the Asian continent.
The other three elements were discovered by the US-Russian collaboration between the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna, Russia; Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, California; and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
These have been given equally strange temporary names. Element 115 will be known as ununpentium (Uup) until officially named, element 117 as ununseptium (Uus), and element 118 as ununoctium (Uuo).
Where are 114 and 116?
If you’re wondering, ‘Whatever happened to element 114 and 116?’, then you can rest assured that no mistake has been made, as these two elements were discovered back in 2011. They have since been called Flerovium and Livermorium, respectively.
The four new elements added to the table are all incredibly rare, given that they are entirely man-made and last for only a fraction of a second after creation during the decay of radioactive superheavy elements following nuclei collisions.
“A particular difficulty in establishing these new elements is that they decay into hitherto unknown isotopes of slightly lighter elements that also need to be unequivocally identified,” commented JWP chair Professor Paul J Karol, “but in the future we hope to improve methods that can directly measure the atomic number, Z.”
It will now be up to the two teams to decide on what to call their new elements, with the IUPAC ruling that new elements can only be named after a mythological concept, a mineral, a place or country, a property or a scientist.
Periodic table image via Larry/Flickr