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Periodic Table welcomes two new, ultraheavy elements, jury still out on the names

Amar Toor, @amartoo
06.08.11
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If you bump in to the Periodic Table of Elements today, be sure to give it a hearty Mazel Tov, because it's just welcomed two new members to the family. Yesterday, the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) officially recognized elements 114 and 116, crediting the discovery to scientists from Russia's Joint Institute for Nuclear Research and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, in California. Boasting atomic masses of 289 and 292, respectively, the new man-made additions are now the heaviest elements on record, seizing the belt from copernicium (285) and roentgenium (272). As with most heavyweights, however, both decay within less than a second, making it difficult for researchers to get a grasp of their chemical properties. Nevertheless, both apparently had enough credibility to survive IUPAC's three-year review process, paving the way for the real fun to begin. At the moment, 114 and 116 are known, rather coldly, as ununquadium and ununhexium, respectively, though their names will eventually be jazzed up -- sort of. The Russian team has already proposed flerovium for 114 (after Soviet nuclear physicist Georgy Flyorov), and, for 116, the Moscow-inspired moscovium, which sounds more like an after shave for particularly macho chemists. IUPAC will have the final say on the matter, though one committee member said any proposed names are likely to be approved, as long as "it's not something too weird." Head past the break for a full, and somewhat obtuse PR.

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Discovery of the Elements with Atomic Number 114 and 116

Priority for the discovery of the elements with atomic number 114 and 116 has been assigned, in accordance with the agreed criteria, to collaborative work between scientists from the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna, Russia and from Lawrence Livermore, California, USA (the Dubna-Livermore collaborations). The discovery evidences were recently reviewed and recognized by a IUPAC/IUPAP joint working party. IUPAC confirmed the recognition of the elements in a letter to the leaders of the collaboration.

The IUPAC/IUPAP Joint Working Party (JWP) on the priority of claims to the discovery of new elements has reviewed the relevant literature pertaining to several claims. In accordance with the criteria for the discovery of elements previously established by the 1992 IUPAC/IUPAP Transfermium Working Group, and reiterated by the 1999 and 2003 IUPAC/IUPAP JWPs, it was concluded that "the establishment of the identity of the isotope 283Cn by a large number of decaying chains, originating from a variety of production pathways essentially triangulating its A,Z character enables that nuclide's use in unequivocally recognizing higher-Z isotopes that are observed to decay through it." From 2004 Dubna-Livermore collaborations the JWP notes: (i) the internal redundancy and extended decay chain sequence for identification of Z = 287114 from 48Ca + 242Pu fusion (Oganessian et al. Eur. Phys. J. A 19, 3 (2004) and Phys. Rev. C 70, 064609 (2004)); and (ii) that the report of the production of 291116 from the fusion of 48Ca with 245Cm is supported by extended decay chains that include, again, 283Cn and descendants (Oganessian et al. Phys. Rev. C 69, 054607 (2004)). It recommends that the Dubna-Livermore collaborations be credited with discovery of these two new elements.

A full synopsis of the relevant experiments and related efforts is presented in a technical report published online in Pure and Applied Chemistry on 1 June 2011. With the priority for the discovery established, the scientists from the Dubna-Livermore collaborations are invited to propose a name for the two super-heavy elements, elements 114 and 116. The suggested names will then go through a review process before adoption by the IUPAC Council.

Review of the claims associated with elements 113, 115, and 118 are at this time not conclusive and evidences have not met the criteria for discovery.

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