4 new elements on periodic table provisionally named

9 Jun 2016

At the start of the year, it emerged that science textbooks for schoolkids would soon be out of date, with the periodic table welcoming four unnamed elements to its fold. Now, they’ve finally received names.

Nihonium (Nh), Moscovium (Mc), Tennessine (Ts) and Oganesson (Og). Remember the names, as elements 113, 115, 117 and 118 will soon, should these provisional titles hold out, adorn the blocks of scientific discovery.

The four new elements were discovered by a team from Japan and a joint US-Russian team, with the names ununtrium, ununpentium, ununseptium and ununoctium acting as placeholders on the seventh row until they were officially replaced.

None of these new elements are found in nature, with all of them being synthetically created in labs.

The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) gave the teams that discovered the elements permission to name them, with certain parameters to be met.

The guidelines say newly-discovered elements can be named after:

  • a mythological concept or character (including an astronomical object)
  • a mineral or similar substance
  • a place, or geographical region
  • a property of the element
  • a scientist

Location, location, scientist

Element 113’s proposed name is nihonium, with Nihon one of two ways to say ‘Japan’ in Japanese. According to IUPAC, it literally means “the Land of Rising Sun” – it is the first element to be discovered in an Asian country.

Elements 115 and 117 have proposed names of moscovium and tennessine. The reasoning is clear as the elements’ discoverers were a team from the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research, Dubna (Russia), Oak Ridge National Laboratory (USA), Vanderbilt University (USA) and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (USA).

Element 118 – with Russian and US discoverers, again – has a provisional name of oganesson, recognising Prof Yuri Oganessian. The Russian scientist pioneered 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”.

The proposed names are now available for public review. People have until November to object them.

“It is a pleasure to see that specific places and names related to the new elements are recognised in these four names,” said Jan Reedijk, who corresponded with the various laboratories and invited the discoverers to make proposals.

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

Periodic table image via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic