Four new elements are set to join the periodic table, and their names have just been made public.
After verifying their discovery in December, the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) announced the new monikers Wednesday, opening a five-month period of public consultation.
The quartet represent the first new admissions to the table since 2011. All of the new elements are artificially made "superheavy elements," which rapidly break down into lighter substances, three have been named after places, and one is the first element to be discovered in Asia.
"I believe the fact that we, in Japan, found one of only 118 known atomic elements gives this discovery great meaning," said Kosuke Morita, a university professor and leader of the team from the RIKEN Nishina Center for Accelerator-Based Science, responsible for discovering element 113.
"Another important meaning is that until now, all the elements in the periodic table have been discovered in Europe and the United States," Dr. Morita told reporters. "There has not been a single atomic element found in Asia, Oceania, or Africa."
In honor of the discovery’s location, the team has chosen to name element 113 “nihonium," a reference to Nihon, which is one way of saying “Japan" in Japanese.
The rules surrounding the naming of new elements are specific, and indeed were recently revised by IUPAC, with fresh recommendations published in April. In essence, they can be named after a mythological character or concept, a mineral, a property of the element, a scientist, or a place.
Nihonium is not alone among these new elements in falling into the final category. Element 115 is to be "moscovium," in honor of Moscow, and element 117 is named "tennessine," recognizing the US state of Tennessee. The names were proposed jointly by the research teams involved, based at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna, Russia, Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, United States, and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, also in the United States.
The fourth element, 118, breaks the trend and is to be called "oganesson," after Russcian physicist Yuri Oganessian, in honor of his pioneering achievements, including the discovery of superheavy elements.
"It is a pleasure to see that specific places and names... related to the new elements [are] recognized in these four names. Although these choices may perhaps be viewed by some as slightly self-indulgent, the names are completely in accordance with IUPAC rules," said Jan Reedijk, who corresponded with the discoverers and invited them to make proposals.
"In fact, I see it as thrilling to recognize that international collaborations were at the core of these discoveries and that these new names also make the discoveries somewhat tangible."
This report contains material from Reuters.