The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) announced on Dec. 30 that the 7th row of the Periodic Table of Elements is now complete, following the discovery and verification of elements 113, 115, 117 and 118 with the following temporary working names and symbols in parentheses, respectively: ununtrium (Uut), ununpentium (Uup), ununseptium (Uus) and ununoctium (Uuo).
What this means for everyone, other than the need to purchase updated books, is that the scientific community can now focus its efforts in creating or discovering elements 119 and above and those who are just bothered by the gap in the seventh row can now breathe in satisfaction. While they're working on that, let's get to know the newly added elements to the table.
The new elements' names may seem funny (and punny) to people for now but don't worry, the "Unun"s won't be called that permanently unless the team which discovered it wants it to be. The current names are just temporary and follow the IUPAC's naming convention which focuses on the element's atomic number. Un stands for the number "one" and you can probably guess that tr(i), pent, sept and oct stands for the numbers three, five, seven and eight, respectively. The suffix ium is attached at the end regardless of number. So, in essence, Ununtrium refers to the element with atomic number one-one-three-ium and you know how to do the rest.
Ununtrium or the new element with Atomic Number 113 is the first element to be discovered in Asia. Kosuke Morita led the group of researchers from RIKEN, Japan's largest and most comprehensive research organization for basic and applied science, in search of the elusive element since 2003. The team from RIKEN Nishina Center (RNC) for Accelerator-based Science saw witness the first instance of the element 113's nucleus being formed in July 2004 when a thin layer of bismuth was bombarded with zinc ions going at 10 percent the speed of light. This was followed by spontaneous fission. As with anything in science, a result must be achieved more than once to be considered conclusive evidence so the team went on to attempt getting a "better picture" of the event. It was not so easy.
The second event finally happened in April 2005 but, despite better grounding, the team was not satisfied with witnessing a spontaneous fission. Rather, they hoped to see actual alpha decay caused by 113. They weren't that lucky. "For over seven years we continued to search for data conclusively identifying element 113, but we just never saw another event," Morita said.
The third event finally happened in August 2012 and Morita's team was able to establish that 113 was the cause of alpha decay. RIKEN was recognized by IUPAC for the discovery of 113 after a demonstration and careful evaluation.
Ununpentium (115) and Ununseptium (117)
Both elements 115 and 117 were discovered by a joint working team composed of researchers from the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna, Russia; Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, California; and Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
Element 115 was observed after the team shot Calcium to a thin strip of Americium. IUPAC confirmed the findings in August 2013 but the first instance of witnessing 115 actually happened 10 years prior.
Ununseptium, on the other hand, is the fastest to be verified among the four because its initial discovery was only in 2010 and it was already confirmed by 2014.
Ununoctium was made by researchers from the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna, Russia and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, California. It was first discovered in California in 1999 but the team that witnessed the first event could not replicate the results and it became the only event which is a big no-no, hence, they had to retract their discovery. As mentioned earlier, Science needs to achieve a result more than once for it to be verified. Lucky for them, a research team from Russia decided to work on element 118 and the joint research team was formed in 2002. Element 118 was finally verified in 2006.
What's next for both the team is basically a christening or renaming of the discovered elements. IUPAC has already outlined that elements may be named after any of the following:
- mythological concept or character (including an astronomical object)
- a mineral or similar substance
- a place or geographical region
- a property of the element
- a scientist
Now it's up to the team that discovered the elements to have pity on us all with a simple-sounding name or get our tongues twisted in an attempt to pronounce new names added to The Periodic Table of Elements.