…but elements 113, 115 and 118 will have to wait a little longer to receive their official recognition from the International Union for Pure and Applied Chemistry (Iupac).

Both elements have been credited to a collaboration between Yuri Oganessian’s team at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna, Russia, and a team from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, US.

My guess is that these teams will now have to work out between them what to call the latest additions to the elemental lexicon. I’ll keep my ear to the ground for any official announcements, but in the meantime, has anyone got any suggestions?

Getting a new element onto the periodic table is a slow business – the time between claiming the discovery of it and official recognition is often over 10 years. The work must be reproduced by independent groups, and often verified and shored up by complementary experiments. Then come the official deliberations from Iupac to study all the evidence and claims and decide who should get the honour of the discovery – and with it the chance to decide on a name for the new elements.

For the last few years, a joint working party from Iupac – and its physics counterpart Iupap – has been considering claims for elements heavier than roentgenium (Z=111). The wranglings have appeared several times on this blog - see here for the back-story. In 2009, the evidence for element 112 was judged sufficient for Sigurd Hofmann at the Institute for Heavy Ion Research (GSI) in Darmstadt, Germany, to name the element copernicium (with the symbol Cn). In a subtle twist, it is this official recognition of 112 that has enabled the claims for elements 114 and 116 to stand up. Since both 114 and 116 decay by emitting alpha particles, they transform into isotopes of copernicium as they do so (116 minus alpha is 114, minus another alpha is 112). Detection of Cn was used to support evidence of their creation.

The Iupac working party also considered claims for elements 113, 115 and 118, but concluded that, while the results were solid and encouraging, they didn’t quite fulfil the criteria for claiming definitive discovery of new elements, so I guess we’ll have to wait a while to see them on the table. In the meantime, have fun dreaming up names for elements 114 and 116!

Phillip Broadwith

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