AsianScientist (Jan. 5, 2016) – This week, four new elements—113, 115, 117 and 118—were added to the periodic table, completing the table’s seventh row. They are the first elements to be added to the table since 2011, when elements 114 and 116 were added.
The four elements, discovered by US, Russian and Japanese scientists, were verified on December 30 by the Joint Working Party of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) and the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP), the official body that makes such decisions.
In the case of element 113, credit for its discovery went to a group of scientists at Japan’s RIKEN Nishina Center for Accelerator-based Science, led by Dr. Kosuke Morita, who have the honor of being the first Asian team to name an element on the periodic table.
Ever wondered how elements are officially added to the periodic table? Here’s how it works.
First things first: Find or make an element
To begin with, element 113 doesn’t occur in nature. At this stage, the purported element goes by the temporary name of ununtrium (Uut).
Scientists have made element 113 in the laboratory by smashing together atoms of two elements, hoping that their nuclei fuse. In 2003, the Japanese scientists bombarded a target of bismuth-209 with accelerated nuclei of zinc-70 and detected a single atom of the isotope ununtrium-278. But after two successful attempts at synthesizing a nucleus of element 113, another seven years would go by before the team observed a third event in 2012.
Next, get it approved
The discovery must then be established by the Joint Working Party of the IUPAC and the International IUPAP, the official body that governs chemical nomenclature, terminology and measurement.
It ain’t all smooth sailing at this stage, though. Competing claims for element 104 by American and Russian scientists lasted over three decades, from the 1960s until 1997, when IUPAC established rutherfordium as the official name for the element.
The Russians had named element 104 kurchatovium (Ku) in honor of Igor Kurchatov, the former head of Soviet nuclear research, and included it in official textbooks. The Americans, however, named the element rutherfordium (Rf) in honor of Ernest Rutherford, the “father of nuclear physics.”
Receive an invitation to propose a name and a symbol
When the Joint Working Party is satisfied that a new element has been discovered, it submits a report to the IUPAC Inorganic Chemistry Division, whose president invites the researcher team to propose a name and symbol for consideration.
The fun part: Thinking of a name
The discoverers will propose a name as well as a justification for their choice. For example, the element selenium is named after Selene, the Greek goddess of the moon.
While the origin of the names of some elements remains obscure, most are based on a property of the element, a mineral or substance from which it was isolated, its place or geographical area of discovery, a mythological character or concept, an astronomical object, or the name of an eminent scientist.
Three potential names for element 113 have already been suggested. They are Japonium (after Japan, the country where the element was discovered), Rikenium (after the institute where Morita works), and Nishinarium (after Yoshio Nishina, a Japanese physicist who is often called “the founding father of modern physics research in Japan”).
The last lap
The IUPAC Inorganic Chemistry Division examines the proposed name and symbol for suitability. If satisfied, it then sends a provisional recommendation to 15 experts, officers of other interested commissions, and the Interdivisional Committee on Terminology, Nomenclature and Symbols.
It also posts the proposed name and symbol on its website to get comments from the public.
If everything goes well, the president of the Inorganic Chemistry Division forwards the Division’s final recommendation to the Council of the IUPAC for formal approval and publication in the journal Pure and Applied Chemistry.
And there you have it; your very own element!
Copyright: Asian Scientist Magazine.
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