Nov. 24, 2011, noonView more articles
In a rare occurrence, two new elements – 114 and 116 – are to be added to the Periodic Table, but not before a name can be found for them. Unofficially they are going by Ununquadium and Ununhexium respectively, but the process of naming can be one that lasts for many months.
Those of us familiar with the Periodic Table may be surprised by the idea of additions but the man who first laid out the table, Dimitri Mendeleev, always knew that there would be more to come. When it was first devised in 1869, the ordering of elements not only provided a new system for chemistry but also a new approach in the gaps that were deliberately left for elements that Mendeleev was sure would be discovered.
The new elements, which must be synthetically created, are ‘heavy’ due to the amount of protons they contain. This also accounts for their instability to the degree that they begin breaking down into lighter radioactive elements after existing for fractions of a second in a laboratory environment.
Described as ‘one of the key tasks’ for researchers at GSI –a centre for heavy ion research – the creation of previously unknown elements is an ongoing activity. Using elements that already exist on Earth, scientists combine two whose atomic nuclei, when added together, have the same number of protons as the new element. The fusion of the nuclei of the two elements must occur in order to create a new atomic nucleus, both much larger and heavier than the two original nuclei.
An element has to be officially named before it can be added to the Periodic Table. Previous additions include: