New chemical elements spark little reaction

The new school year started just four days ago and the periodic table - an essential part of any chemistry lesson - is already outdated.

The chart, which lists chemical elements by their atomic numbers, will gain four new elements, said the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC), the US-based global authority on chemistry, on Dec 30 last year. They complete the seventh row of the chart.

Discovered by scientists in Japan, Russia and the United States, elements 113, 115, 117 and 118 are the first to be added to the table in four years. The previous entries were elements 114 and 116 in 2011.

The new elements, all synthetic, will be known for now by their working names of ununtrium (Uut or 113), ununpentium (Uup or 115), ununseptium (Uus or 117) and ununoctium (Uuo or 118).

The new elements, all synthetic, will be known for now by their working names of ununtrium

(Uut or 113), ununpentium (Uup or 115), ununseptium (Uus or 117) and ununoctium (Uuo or 118).

"The chemistry community is eager to see its most cherished table finally being completed down to the seventh row," said Professor Jan Reedijk, president of the IUPAC's Inorganic Chemistry Division. "IUPAC has now initiated the process of formalising names and symbols for these elements."

While the update has created lots of buzz in the scientific community, educators here say it is unlikely to create waves in schools.

"The discoveries will definitely cause many textbooks around the world to be rendered out of date. This update would probably interest students, but (when it comes to affecting the syllabus) at secondary level, the impact may not be high," said a secondary school chemistry teacher who gave her name as Ms Goh.

Mr Joel Liu, 30, the founder of Bright Culture Tuition Centre, agreed that students doing the O and A levels should not worry, as the four new elements would not be taught in depth in secondary school or junior college.

Mr Liu, who has been a chemistry tutor for 12 years, said he would be teaching his students about this new discovery, saying: "This is a good opportunity to engage my students and let them see how chemistry relates to the real world. It is a good way to increase their interest in this subject."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 07, 2016, with the headline 'New chemical elements spark little reaction'. Print Edition | Subscribe