Mental Floss

The Periodic Table Is Getting Four New Elements

Michele Debczak
iStock / iStock

Four newly discovered elements will soon be added to the periodic table of elements, updating the table for the first time since 2011. The additions, which will complete the chart's seventh row, were made possible after the elements occupying the 113, 115, 117, and 118 positions received official recognition from the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) on December 30.

None of the four newest elements occur in nature—instead they're manufactured in a lab. Scientists at the RIKEN Institute in Japan are responsible for finding element 113, and a collaboration between Russian and American researchers led to the discovery of elements 115, 117, and 118. The elements were created by colliding nuclei into one another and measuring the decay of the resulting superheavy elements. This decay is extremely rapid and hard to reproduce, so while their existence has long been suspected, it has been difficult to prove until now. 

These spots had been given temporary names and symbols on the table before their discovery was made official: ununtrium, or Uut, for 113; ununpentium, or Uup, for 115; ununseptium, or Uus, for 117; and ununoctium, or Uuo, for 118. Now that the elements have been formally recognized, their permanent names get to be chosen by the scientists who discovered them. Elements can be named for a mineral, a place, a property, a scientist, or even a mythological concept. The proposed names will be available for public review for five months leading up to the IUPAC’s final selection. For more on the details of element 113’s discovery, you can read a recent report in the Journal of the Physical Society of Japan

[h/t: CNN]