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Periodic Table is declared ‘complete’

The elements have been approved by the Joint Working Party for the Discovery of New Elements. This scientific body was established in 1999 to review proposals for new elements. A chemical element is a species of atoms that has the same number of protons in their atomic nuclei (this means the same atomic number). There are currently 118 elements. Of these, first 94 occur naturally on Earth with the remaining 24 being synthetic elements. The four new elements are synthetic.

The elements were discovered by scientists from the U.S., Japan and Russia. These elements are coded 113, 115, 117 and 118. Now it has been agreed where these elements fit into the table, the next task is to name them (at present the elements have temporary names: Element 113: Nihonium; Element 115: Moscovium; Element 117: Tennessine; Element 118: Oganesson).

Elements are placed on the periodic table. The periodic table orders elements according to their atomic number (number of protons), electron configurations and recurring chemical properties. The table can be ‘read’ in terms of elements in the same column having similar behaviors (these are termed ‘groups’); whereas the rows run with metals on the left, and non-metals on the right (these are called ‘periods’.)

So how might the elements be named? The procedural process, set out by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry, dictates that the elements can be named after a mythological concept, a mineral, a place or country, a property or a scientist.

The new elements were discovered in 2012 and it has taken four years to agree that they are ‘new’ elements and for where they need to be placed on the table. Discussing this, Paul Karol, who is the chair of the Joint Working Party for the Discovery of New Elements, explained to Laboratory Roots: “Each successive element becomes more and more difficult to synthesize and increasingly difficult to measure. To actually study the chemistry is a profound challenge to the cleverness of experimental and theoretical scientists.”

Prior to 113, 115, 117 and 118, the previous elements to gain ‘elemental status’ were: darmstadtium, roentgenium, copernicium, flerovium, and livermorium.

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Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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