Giant posters of the periodic table of elements adorn many a grade school classroom. The table is in virtually every science textbook, and featured on zillions of websites and even t-shirts. That familiar collection of colorful squares is now outdated, as four new elements have been approved by the agency responsible for all things elemental. Elements 113, 115, 117, and 118 will complete the table’s seventh row – as soon as they have names and symbols.
On December 30, the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) verified the new elements, putting them in line for joining the existing 118 elements listed in the table. All four of the new elements are man-made, having only been synthesized in laboratories, which is true of all elements with an atomic number of 95 or higher. Elements 95 to 100 are proven to have once occurred in nature but now only exist in the lab.
The four new elements were identified by researchers from Japan, Russia, and the United States. The four super-heavy elements, which only exist in a lab setting for a fraction of a second before they decay into other elements, have been in the works since 2004. That is when Kosuke Morita, pictured above, led a team of researchers at Ruken institute in Japan to first synthesize element 113 in the lab.
Although the elements don’t have official, permanent names yet, the research team uses nicknames that stem from each element’s number. Element 113 is temporarily being called ununtrium (which means 113-ium), and has the symbol Uut. Element 115 is referred to as ununpentium or Uup; 117 is called ununseptium or Uus; and 118 is called ununoctium or Uuo. The team will get to choose the permanent names for the new elements as well.
The new elements are the first additions since 2011, when IUPAC approved elements 114 and 116.
Lead image via Shutterstock