The Periodic Table has gained 4 extra superheavy elements, finally completing its seventh row with additional chemical substances.
For now, the elements that have been added have been called 113 (ununtrium), 115 (ununpentium), 117 (ununseptium) and 118 (ununoctium).
These are just systematic element names, provided on a temporary basis. Eventually, the newly synthesized elements will be granted more illustrative names, depending on the designation selected by the scientists who identified them.
It’s the first time in 4 years that new substances have been included the Periodic Table of Elements, initially published by Dmitri Mendeleev back in 1869. In 2011, flevorium (ununquandium) and livermorium (ununhexium) caused the instantly recognizable arrangement to be updated, thus changing textbooks across the globe.
In the tabular line-up, chemical elements are organized in 18 columns (also known as groups), based on their atomic number, which verges between 1 and 118: the first 94 items listed in the table can be found in nature, while the other 24, which follow uranium, have been created in laboratory conditions.
The four recent additions also fall in this latter category, being considered to be superheavy elements, since their atomic number is higher than 112.
Ununtrium, ununpentium, ununseptium and ununoctium have been created artificially. However, as transuranium elements, it is believed that they have all existed naturally on our planet, having separated into other compounds with a smaller number of protons, due to their initial instability.
Unutrium (113) was re-created by a group of experts at RIKEN’s Japan’s leading research center, based in Tokio, following work spanning across more than a decade.
The achievement, presented in the Journal of Physical Society of Japan, has been particularly significant for Kosuke Morita and his co-workers, given the fact that this was the first chemical element ever identified on the Asian continent.
In fact, Ryoji Noyori, recipient of the 2011 Nobel Prize in Chemistry and former president at RIKEN, has even said that this type of success is the equivalent of earning an Olympic gold medal, or an even more illustrious distinction.
The existence of ununoctium (118) was proven by reserchers at California’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, alongside Russian scientists from the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research.
The same team also contributed to the identification of ununpentium and ununseptium, following a collaboration with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, based in Tennessee.
While researchers are yet to find an “island of stability” containing elementary substances that are superheavy, yet stable, it seems progress is being made in the right direction.
The historic discoveries have been authenticated on December 30, 2015, by regulators from the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUAPAP) and the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC).
Now, the esteemed researchers will have the honor to choose permanent names for these four elements, IUPAC nomenclature specifying that chemical substances can refer to countries, mythological creatures or characters, minerals, specific characteristics or influential scientists.
Symbols for these elements will also have to be chosen, in order to make them more easily memorized and accessible to schoolchildren, teachers and chemical engineers worldwide.
These suggestions will be reviewed by IUPAC’s Inorganic Division, and provided that they are considered pertinent and relevant enough, they will be analyzed by IUPAC’s Council, which will give its final stamp of approval.
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