Nihonium, moscovium, tennessine, and oganesson are the recommended names for elements 113, 115, 117, and 118, the International Union of Pure & Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) announced today.
IUPAC officially added the elements to the periodic table at the end of 2015. Those credited with discovering the elements get the rights to propose permanent names and symbols. The names will be finalized after public review and formal approval by the IUPAC Council.
According to recommendations published by IUPAC in April, elements can be named after a mythological concept, a mineral, a place or country, a property, or a scientist (Pure Appl. Chem. 2016, DOI: 10.1515/pac-2015-0802). Element names should also “have an ending that reflects and maintains historical and chemical consistency,” the recommendations say. “This would be in general ‘-ium’ for elements belonging to groups 1–16, i.e. including the f-block elements, ‘-ine’ for elements of group 17 and ‘-on’ for elements of group 18.”
Japan’s RIKEN research institution was credited with discovering element 113. Nihonium (Nh) comes from Nihon, which is one of two ways to say “Japan” in Japanese. It is the first element discovered in and named after an Asian country.
The discoveries of the other three elements were credited to European-American collaborations involving Russia’s Joint Institute for Nuclear Research and the U.S. Lawrence Livermore and Oak Ridge national laboratories.
Moscovium (Mc) recognizes Moscow and its surrounding area “and honors the ancient Russian land that is the home of the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research,” says an IUPAC press release.
Tennessine (Ts) “is in recognition of the contribution of the Tennessee region, including Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Vanderbilt University, and the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, to superheavy element research, including the production and chemical separation of unique actinide target materials for superheavy element synthesis,” the release also says.
Oganesson (Og) honors Russian nuclear physicist Yuri T. Oganessian, who leads the Flerov Laboratory of Nuclear Reactions at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research. He joins his countrymen Vasili Samarsky-Bykhovets (samarium), Dmitri Mendeleev (mendelevium), and Georgy Flerov (flerovium) in having a namesake element.
In April, Nature Chemistry published element name predictions by freelance writer Philip Ball, Worcester Polytechnic Institute chemistry professor Shawn Burdette, chemistry writer and blogger Kat Day, UCLA lecturer and author Eric Scerri, and Stockholm University chemistry researcher Brett Thornton (Nat. Chem. 2016, DOI: 10.1038/nchem.2482).
Burdette came closest to the proposed names, suggesting nipponium (Nippon is the other way to say “Japan” in Japanese), moscovium, tennessine, and oganesson. “After my element prediction success, I’m retiring from chemistry,” he joked on Twitter. “I can’t see my career going any higher.”