Blue, red, and white model of an atom

The most iconic poster that adorns every science room will need to be updated as the periodic table of elements is getting 4 new elements completing its seventh row.

While official names are still to be determined, elements 113, 115, 117 and 118 will be known as ununtrium (Uut), ununpentium (Uup), ununseptium (Uus) and ununoctium (Uuo) for the time being.  The new names must derive their names from mythology or the names of minerals, places, properties of the element.  Or the discoverers have the option to name it after themselves.

This is the first addition to the periodic table since 2011 when the IUPAC and IUPAP recognized flerovium (114) and livermorium (116).  The four new elements were created by teams of researchers in Russia, Japan and the US who created them by smashing two lighter elements into one another creating superheavy elements that only exists fraction of a second before decaying into lighter atoms.

Proper Credit

Multiple detections in different experiments must be recorded before it can be accepted.  The need for multiple detections from different experiments leads to a controversy over who gets credit for its discovery.

Element 113’s discovery has been credited to a collaboration at RIKEN in Wako, Japan, however the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna, Russia claims it found it in 2003 but their result was ruled inconclusive.  The other three new elements are being credited to the Russians and US team working together.

Beyond just filling out the seventh row of the periodic table, creating these new elements might one day yield new elements with strange properties.  Because atoms are more likely to be stable when it has a complete outer shell, most elements heavier than Lead (82) are unstable.  Heavier elements should allow for interesting properties because the weight of the nucleus should accelerate the inner electrons to almost the speed of light.

The Japanese team is set reaching these strange new elements.  Kosuke Morita the leader of the Japanese team explains: “Now that we have conclusively demonstrated the existence of element 113, 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.”