Four new elements named after country, region, state, scientist

RIKEN's Superheavy Element Production Team group director Kosuke Morita (right) and team leader Koji Morimoto discovered the atomic element 113 and decided to name it Nihonium.
RIKEN's Superheavy Element Production Team group director Kosuke Morita (right) and team leader Koji Morimoto discovered the atomic element 113 and decided to name it Nihonium. PHOTO: EPA

The four new elements announced last December have received their new names: nihonium (Nh), moscovium (Mc), tennessine (Ts) and oganesson (Og).

The names for the quartet of super-heavy elements, which complete the seventh row of the periodic table, will be on a five-month probation, the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) announced on Wednesday.

They will undergo a public review, where those interested can provide comments or feedback, before the union approves the names officially.

IUPAC is the world authority on chemical nomenclature and terminology, including the naming of new elements in the periodic table; on standardised methods for measurement; on atomic weights; and on many other critically evaluated data.

International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP) president Bruce McKellar explained in a statement to The Straits Times that the elements were named after a country, a region, a state and a physicist involved in their discoveries.

IUPAP's secretariat office is hosted at the Nanyang Technological University campus in Singapore.

GLOBAL NATURE

This choice of names highlights the international character of work in science.

PROFESSOR BRUCE MCKELLAR

"This choice of names highlights the international character of work in science, and the importance of key visionary people to progress in our field," said Professor McKellar.

All four elements are synthetic and were discovered by slamming light nuclei into one another and tracking the decay of radioactive super-heavy elements (which exist only very briefly before decaying into other elements).

Element 113, the first element in the periodic table to be discovered in an Asian country, is christened nihonium. The name is borrowed from one of the Japanese names for Japan - "nihon" - which means the land of the rising sun. The element was discovered by Japan's Riken Institute, which houses the Nishina Centre for Accelerator Science.

Element 115 was given the name moscovium after the Moscow region, the location of the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna, Russia, while element 117 is named tennessine to honour the contributions of several institutions in the American state of Tennessee.

Element 118 - oganesson - is named after nuclear physicist Yuri Oganessian, who led research into super-heavy nuclei and the search for new elements.

While IUPAP said it is unknown if the periodic table has an end and that the full properties of the new elements are yet to be discovered, laboratories are already working to search for elements to add an eighth row to the periodic table.

It also announced the possible formation of a new joint working party with IUPAC that will review claims on the discovery of new elements.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 10, 2016, with the headline 'Four new elements named after country, region, state, scientist'. Print Edition | Subscribe