This past January, scientists announced that they'd discovered four new chemical elements—and yesterday, Science News reports, they finally received new names. The designations will now be scrutinized via a 5-month public review. If they pass muster, the monikers will be officially placed on the periodic table’s seventh row per final approval by chemistry’s governing body, the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC).
Following tradition, the scientists who discovered these elements were granted the honor of coming up with the names and symbols. According to IUPAC, the proposed names for elements 113, 115, 117, and 118 are nihonium, moscovium, tennessine, and oganesson, respectively. Three of the elements’ names are derived from the geographical locations of their research institutes, and the fourth is named after a scientist.
Nihonium was discovered in Japan and is named after the Japanese word “Nihon,” or “Land of the Rising Sun.” If ratified, nihonium will become the periodic table’s first East Asian name. (Four other countries have elements named after them, The Atlantic points out: francium for France, germanium for Germany, polonium for Poland, and americium for the United States.) The chemical symbol for the element will be Nh.
The remaining elements were discovered—and named—by a team of Russian-U.S. scientists. Element 115 will be called moscovium, or Mc, after Moscow. The element was discovered at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna, as part of a collaborative effort with researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.
Until recently, californium (Cf), a radioactive metallic chemical element with an atomic number of 98, was the only element on the periodic table named after a state. Element 117 might soon change that: Its proposed name is tennessine, or T, in honor of the state where scientists from Vanderbilt University, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and the University of Tennessee discovered the element.
Oganesson, or Og, is named after Russian physicist Yuri Oganessian. According to Nature, Oganessian works at Russia’s Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (JINR) in Dubna. If the name is approved, Oganessian will be the second living scientist in history to have an element named after him. The first was American physicist Glenn Seaborg, who had the element seaborgium named after him in 1997.
If these names seem a bit staid (or self-centered) to you, that’s because strict rules ensure that you won’t see weird, silly, or random names on the periodic table. An element can only be named after a mythological figure or concept, geological place, scientist, elemental property, or mineral. (Due to the public’s recent outpouring of support for an English polar research vessel to be named “Boaty McBoatface,” we’re inclined to support IUPAC's guidelines.)
“Although these choices may perhaps be viewed by some as slightly self-indulgent, the names are completely in accordance with IUPAC rules,” said Jan Reedijk, president of IUPAC’s inorganic chemistry division, in a media statement.
Now that the new element names are proposed, people around the world will review them to make sure they fit with all the different languages, Lynn Soby, IUPAC’s executive director, told Chemistry World. On November 8, the names will finally be formalized—just in time for fall semester chemistry class.
[h/t Science News]