Four new elements added to periodic table

Image: Element 117
A computer graphic shows how the collision of calcium ions and berkelium atoms produces atoms of Element 117. (Credit: University of California Television)

The scientific body in charge of chemistry’s periodic table has verified the discoveries of four elements – completing the seventh row of the century-old chart.

For now, the elements are known as ununtrium (Element 113), ununpentium (Element 115), ununseptium (Element 117) and ununoctium (Element 118). It’ll be up to the newly recognized discoverers to propose the officlal names. The numbers denote how many protons are in the element’s nucleus.

At least one of the elements was synthesized more than a decade ago, but it took years for the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry, or IUPAC, to confirm the evidence.

“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,” Paul Karol, a Carnegie Mellon University chemist who chairs the panel in charge of sorting out the discovery claims, said in IUPAC’s Dec. 30 announcement.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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