The scientific community is kicking off 2016 in a big way, announcing the confirmation of four new elements on the periodic table, finally completing the seventh row. The announcement comes from the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC), which is the governing body of global standards in chemistry.
Like all elements in the seventh row, these new additions are radioactive. While some of the elements are naturally occurring or can exist because of radioactive decay, all four of the new elements were created in a laboratory by bombarding atoms of other elements, fusing them only for a fraction of a second.
Discovery of element 113 is credited to the RIKEN Institute in Japan, with the details published in the Journal of the Physical Society of Japan. The official descriptions of how 115, 117, and 118 were synthesized have not yet been published. Elements 115, 117, and 118 were jointly confirmed by a collaboration between American and Russian chemists.
"The chemistry community is eager to see its most cherished table finally being completed down to the seventh row. IUPAC has now initiated the process of formalizing names and symbols for these elements temporarily named as ununtrium, (Uut or element 113), ununpentium (Uup, element 115), ununseptium (Uus, element 117), and ununoctium (Uuo, element 118)," IUPAC's president of the Inorganic Chemistry Division, Jan Reedijk, explained in a statement.
While the existence of these elements has been confirmed, they have not been named. Scientific customs dictate that whoever makes the discovery has the privileges of naming rights. There was speculation back in 2012 that 113 would be named "Japanium." There is currently no speculation as to what moniker the other elements might receive. Because those are the product of international collaborations, it's less likely to receive a nationalistic title.
Potential names and symbols will be submitted to IUPAC for approval and be subjected to a five-month-long review period. Then, members of IUPAC will vote on the names, making them official. After that, these discoveries will be immortalized on the periodic table for use by chemistry students around the world, as well as brainy preschoolers who outsmart TV hosts.
"Now that we have conclusively demonstrated the existence of element 113," says Kosuke Morita, who led the RIKEN group, "we plan to look to the uncharted territory of element 119 and beyond, aiming to examine the chemical properties of the elements in the seventh and eighth rows of the periodic table, and someday to discover the island of stability."