They were temporarily called ununtrium (Uut), ununpentium (Uup), ununseptium (Uus), and ununoctium (Uuo), but the time of the uu’s is over – the new elements have received proper names.
Back in January, we were telling you about the discovery of four new chemical elements, which have been permanently added to the periodic table. Now, teams of researchers from the US, Russia, and Japan all got the chance to name their respective new elements, and this is what they came up with:
- nihonium with the symbol Nh, for the element with Z =113,
- moscovium with the symbol Mc, for the element with Z = 115,
- tennessine with the symbol Ts, for the element with Z = 117, and
- oganesson with the symbol Og, for the element with Z = 118.
Nihonium comes from “Nippon”, a Japanese word for Japan. Moscovium comes from Russia’s capital Moscow, tennessine comes from the American state of Tennessee and Oganesson is named after 83-year-old Russian physicist Yuri Oganessian. According to Richard Van Noorden from Nature, this is only the second time a new element has been named for a living scientist.
“The first such occasion led to huge controversy, when in 1993 a team at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory proposed naming element 106 seaborgium for US nuclear-chemistry pioneer Glenn Seaborg,” says Van Noorden. “At the time an IUPAC committee rejected the proposal, after passing a resolution that elements not be named for living scientists, but it ultimately relented.”
The tennessine name is also a bit odd, being named after a state, but the state has a long-running tradition in chemistry research.
“Tennessine is in recognition of the contribution of the Tennessee region, including Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Vanderbilt University, and the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, to superheavy element research,” says the IUPAC, the organization in charge of naming the elemenets (among others).
The IUPAC has some pretty strict rules when it comes to naming elements, which must be named after either:
- A mythological concept or character (including an astronomical object)
- A mineral, or similar substance
- A place or geographical region
- A property of the element
- A scientist
Unlike “classical” elements (like gold, hydrogen etc), these elements are not found in nature – they have to be synthesized in the lab. They also decay so fast after they’ve been created that researchers often only have split seconds to study them.
The Japanese team is already close to discovering a new element, which ScienceAlert would like to call drogonium, in honor of the biggest dragon in the Game of Thrones series and books. Personally, I’d say something like aragornium could work out a bit better, how would you name the new chemical element if you were given the chance?