In December, four new elements were added to the periodic table, but it was this week that they received more palatable names.
The synthetic atomic elements previously known as ununtrium (Uut), ununpentium (Uup), ununseptium (Uus), and ununoctium (Uuo) were renamed as Nihonium (Nh), Moscovium (Mc), Tennessine (Ts), and Oganesson (Og) respectively.
The new names were unveiled Wednesday by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) which had confirmed the discovery in December. The new names are only provisional and were granted after a 5-month-long public consultation.
The last time the Periodic Table of Elements was updated was in 2011.
All new entries, however, are not naturally occurring. They were obtained through laboratory equipment and are called superheavy elements. One element was named for a person, while three others for places.
Element 113, aka Nihonium (Nh), comes from the Japanese word Nihon which translates as Japan or the Land of Rising Sun. This is because the element was discovered by a Japanese team of researchers. It is the first time Asians discover an atomic element on the table.
Kosuke Morita of the RIKEN Nishina Center for Accelerator-Based Science and leader of the Japanese team that made the finding was very proud that of 118 elements, one was found by Japan. IUPAC usually names new elements for a scientist, mythological animal, place, mineral, or concept.
Moscovium (Mc) or Element 15 was also named after a place, i.e. Russia’s capital city Moscow. IUPAC thought about Moscow to honor the home land of the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research and Russian researchers who showed great interest in superheavy element research.
Element 117 is now called Tennessine (Ts) to honor the institutes involved in superheavy element research such as the Vanderbilt University, University of Tennessee, and ORNL. The latter entity contributed to the discovery of nine superheavy elements.
But element 118 was named after a person, Yuri Oganessian, an 83-year-old Russian scientist who found the superheavy elements among others.
While some critics said that the new names may be too “self-indulgent,” the IUPAC announced that they don’t break any of the rules that govern such nominations. Plus, the new monikers were created to recognize the contributions of the international teams that led to the discovery of the four new entries.
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