Four new elements have been added to the Periodic Table of the Elements occupying positions 113, 115, 117 and 118. The elements have been tentatively named ununtrium, ununpentium, ununseptium and ununoctium because of their place in the table but will soon be renamed by the scientists that discovered them.
These elements were discovered in particle accelerators when scientists shot two nuclei of different sizes at each other. The new elements created this way lasted for just a fraction of second but long enough to confirm their existence.
The four elements, as far as we know, aren’t found in nature and join the list of other non-natural occurring elements that begins with element 99. They could, however, exist elsewhere in the universe or at a certain point of time in the past.
“A particular difficulty in establishing these new elements is that they decay into hitherto unknown isotopes of slightly lighter elements that also need to be unequivocally identified,” said Paul Karol of the International Union of Applied and Pure Chemistry (IUPAC).
The Periodic Table is organized by groups, which are the columns and periods, the rows. The discovery of these four elements now completes the 7th period of the periodic table. Elements contained in the same period have the same number of electron shells but with different number of electrons in those shells.
“The chemistry community is eager to see its most cherished table finally being completed down to the seventh row,” said Jan Reedijk of (IUPAC).
Research into proving the presence of these elements began several years ago. Element 113 was discovered by scientists in Japan while the discovery of elements 115, 117 and 118 was a joint effort between American and Russian scientists. These groups will be given the honour of naming the newly confirmed elements.
These elements are classified as “superheavy,” which is any element containing more than 104 protons, the positively charged particle on the nucleus.
While these elements are not stable, chemists are still searching for heavier ones, some of which may be stable. Theoretical physicists think elements 120 and 126 may be stable and last long enough to study their chemistry in depth and even potentially use them.
The four elements are the first to be added to the table since 2012 when Flerovium (114) and Livermorium (116) were added.