Four new elements have now been named on the periodic table, bringing the total number of recognized elements to 118. None of these are produced in nature, being the products of physics experiments.
The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC), which is the governing body of chemical research, made the announcement on June 8.
Chemical elements are numbered according to the number of positively charged protons in their nucleus.
Nihonium is element 113, moscovium possesses 115 protons, tennessine is number 117 and oganesson comes in at 118 on the periodic table.
Names for elements may currently only be named after a scientist, location, mineral, mythological concept or property of the substance.
"To avoid confusion in the literature, when a name has been used for a particular element, but a different name is ultimately chosen for that element, then the first name cannot be transferred for use for another element. The names of all new elements in general would have an ending that reflects and maintains historical and chemical consistency," the IUPAC reported in a statement announcing their decision.
Nihonium is the first element named by East Asian researchers and the first named after a nation in the region. The name Nihon is a variation on the name Japan, although Japonium was one early notion for the element, first discovered in 2004.
Element 115, moscovium, is named in honor of the Moscow region of Russia, where the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research is housed.
Tennessine, holding 117 protons within its massive center, is given its title in honor of the Volunteer State. Like Moscow, Tennessee is home to heavy-element research centers, including the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, University of Tennessee at Knoxville and Vanderbilt University.
"Perhaps the most striking choice, although one that was widely predicted, is for element 118, oganesson. It is named for Yuri Oganessian, an 83-year-old researcher at Russia's Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (JINR) in Dubna who has helped to discover numerous superheavy elements, and will mark only the second time that an element has been named after a living scientist," Richard Van Noorden wrote in Nature.
The governing body has also proposed names for two other short-lived elements created by physicists during collisions of lighter elements. Both flerovium (element number 114) and livermorium, with 116 protons, exist for just a small fraction of a second before degrading into lighter elements.
Public comment will be taken for five months, and the names will be confirmed in November 2016, barring a massive public outcry over the new designations.
Image: Matthew Frederickson | Flickr