AsianScientist (Jun. 15, 2016) – The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) Inorganic Chemistry Division has announced a five-month public review of four recently-discovered elements and their proposed names.
One of the elements, nihonium and the symbol Nh for element 113, is the first element to have been discovered in an Asian country. Its name and symbol were proposed by Kosuke Morita, group director of the Research Group for Superheavy Element at the RIKEN Nishina Center for Accelerator-Based Science, who led its discovery.
The group began its efforts to discover element 113 at RIKEN’s RI Beam Factory using the RILAC linear accelerator in September 2003. The first synthesis of element 113 took place in July 2004, and two other events, in April 2005 and August 2012, led to recognition from IUPAC on New Year’s Eve last year.
Morita and colleagues proposed the name nihonium and the symbol Nh as nihon is one of the two ways to say ‘Japan’ in Japanese, and literally means ‘the Land of Rising Sun.’ The name therefore makes a direct connection to the nation where the element was discovered.
“In the long history of the discovery of chemical elements, only research groups in Western countries have discovered new elements. We are the first group in Asia to have discovered a new element and then earned naming rights to it,” said Morita.
“Following the final approval by IUPAC, ‘nihonium’ and ‘Nh’ will be added to the periodic table. We are honored to have the name of an element discovered by a research group in Japan earn a permanent seat on the periodic table, an intellectual legacy that will be passed down to future generations for the benefit of humankind.”
Morita added that seeing the new element in the periodic table may generate increased interest in Japan for science which, in turn, will hopefully lead to a more scientifically-minded general public. The researchers also hope to displace the lost trust of those who suffered from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.