New Element Names Released

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Exciting news in the area of new elements – the names of the four latest elements have been proposed.

The existence of elements 113, 115, 117 and 118 were confirmed earlier this year by Russian and Japanese scientists, and IUPAC have announced their suggested names earlier this week.

Element 113, discovered by Kosuke Morita’s research group at RIKEN in Japan, will be named Nihonium, chemical symbol Nh. The element is named after Japan itself, from the Japanese word Nihon, and will be the first East Asian name to appear on the periodic table.

Elements 115 and 117 are both geographically named, being Moscovium (Mc) and Tennessine (Ts) respectively. Moscovium takes its name from the location of the Joint Institute of Nuclear Research (JINR), Moscow, and Tennessine is inspired from the area of the US where a great deal of superheavy element research is conducted, Tennessee. These names celebrate the collaboration between Russia and the US on the discovery of these elements.

The same group affectionately named element 118, Oganesson (Og), after Russian nuclear physicist Yuri Oganessian. Oganessian works at the JINR, and has had a hand in the discovery of numerous superheavy elements, including element 117. This move may prove controversial, as it’s only the second time an element has been named after a living scientist. When Seaborgium was named after Glenn Seaborg in 1993, IUPAC initially rejected the name.

Personally, I think these are very apt names for these new elements, which are not only easy to pronounce but make perfect sense. IUPAC will now put the names up for public scrutiny for a period of 5 months, so time will tell if they’ll stick. I certainly hope so!

 

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Happy Birthday Dmitri Mendeleev!

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I’m sure most of you have seen today’s Google Doodle but, if not, today would have been the 182nd birthday of creator of the periodic table, Dmitri Mendeleev.

Mendeleev is most known because he organised the known chemical elements by their properties, which allowed him to predict elements which had not yet been discovered, such as gallium and germanium. In 1869, Mendeleev gave a presentation to the Russian Chemical Society, stating his findings:

  1. The elements, if arranged according to their atomic weight, exhibit an apparent periodicity of properties.
  2. Elements which are similar regarding their chemical properties either have similar atomic weights (e.g., Pt, Ir, Os) or have their atomic weights increasing regularly (e.g., K, Rb, Cs).
  3. The arrangement of the elements in groups of elements in the order of their atomic weights corresponds to their so-called valencies, as well as, to some extent, to their distinctive chemical properties; as is apparent among other series in that of Li, Be, B, C, N, O, and F.
  4. The elements which are the most widely diffused have small atomic weights.
  5. The magnitude of the atomic weight determines the character of the element, just as the magnitude of the molecule determines the character of a compound body.
  6. We must expect the discovery of many yet unknown elements–for example, two elements, analogous to aluminium and silicon, whose atomic weights would be between 65 and 75.
  7. The atomic weight of an element may sometimes be amended by a knowledge of those of its contiguous elements. Thus the atomic weight of tellurium must lie between 123 and 126, and cannot be 128.
  8. Certain characteristic properties of elements can be foretold from their atomic weights.

However, this isn’t Mendeleev’s only achievement. He carried out research in researcher in the fields of hydrodynamics, meteorology, geology, chemical technology and industrial chemistry, and was one of the founders of the Russian Chemical Society. Mendeleev was even celebrated as a master suitcase maker, which were put together with an adhesive he invented himself. He was also very interested in shipbuilding, and wrote over 40 scientific papers on the subject.

To celebrate the main man’s birthday, Compound Interest have made a graphic showing various trends of the periodic table:

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Four New Elements Finally Fill Up Seventh Row

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News just in! It has been announced today that the seventh row of the period table has finally been filled up, with elements 113, 115, 117 and 118 being verified by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry  (IUPAC) on 30 December.

The body announced that a team of Russian and American scientists had provided sufficient evidence for elements  115, 117 and 118 to be added to the periodic table, and IUPAC awarded credit for element 113 to a group of Japanese researchers at the Riken Institute.

The elements are the first to be added since 2011, when elements 114 and 116 were added.

Kosuke Morita, who was leading the research at Riken, said his team now planned to “look to the unchartered territory of element 119 and beyond.”

IUPAC has now initiated the process of formalising names and symbols for these elements, temporarily named as ununtrium, (Uut or element 113), ununpentium (Uup, element 115), ununseptium (Uus, element 117), and ununoctium (Uuo, element 118). The groups credited for proving the existence of the elements are currently thinking of names for the elements, which will then be present to IUPAC to go under public review.

Like other super-heavy elements, these elements are artifically made and only exist for very short periods of time before decaying into more stable elements.

The chemistry community is abuzz with this news, and I’m sure we’re all very excited to find out what names are given to the final members of Period 7!

 

Image courtesy of chemistry.about.com

 

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Periodic Video Number 500!

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This year the University of Nottingham’s Periodic Videos have posted their 500th video – a collection of some of the best moments from this unexpected internet sensation.

If you haven’t heard of the Periodic Table of Videos, you’re missing out. Five years ago, the team aimed at making a video for each element of the periodic table, highlighting their history, uses and any interesting facts about each one. They’re interesting to any lover of chemistry or science in general – adults and children alike. Even so, no one expected them to prove so popular – the channel has now hit over 350,000 subscribers from around the globe.

The channel took off to such an extent that the videos have now been extended, with videos about current events and news in the science community, significant molecules and compounds in the world right now, and many of the elements are having new videos made about them. As the videos became more popular, funding was increased and many of the videos now involve trips to far off destinations such as Sydney’s Bondai Beach and and the base camp of Mount Everest.

Much of the success may be attributed to the popularity of the videos’ main personality – Professor Martyn Poliakoff. Viewers love both his ‘mad scientist’ appearance and his genuine passion for chemistry, and we’ve even had visitors flying over from abroad to visit him in person. Other members of our academic staff feature in the videos as well, giving their expert insight into elements that interest them and getting involved with the demonstrations – including my own supervisor, Dr Deborah Kays.

If you’re interested in the elements, I strongly suggest you take a peek. There’s plenty of everyone – with fun, flashes and bangs, and maybe a bit of education along the way. We all thoroughly enjoy watching them here at the university, and I’m sure you will too!

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Some Elemental History and Not So Bohring After All? – 2 Book Reviews by New Scientist

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I’m personally a big fan of literature about the history of Chemistry, and today I came across two book reviews on the New Scientist website which might be of interest to any lovers of scientific history in general.

Firstly, A Tale of Seven Elements, by Eric Scerri and reviewed by Andrea Sella of University College London, tells the story of seven elements ‘missing’ from the periodic table in the 20th century: francium, astatine, promethium, hafnium, rhenium, technetium and protactinium. These elements aren’t widely known to the public at large, and so their history is usually forgotten.

People tend to forget how intensely scientists can battle to prove the discovery of a new element, and books such as these give us an interesting insight into what was going on in the midst of the chaos.

Andrea tells us that Scerri has ‘tremendous stories to tell’, and that he tells them well, albeit in a fashion that may leave the reader wanting to know more about the actual people involved. One aspect which may be of particular interest may be the letters between Lise Meitner (the discoverer of protactinium) and her research partner as he fought during the First World War.

Overall, Andrea reviews A Tale of Seven Elements as a ‘brilliant book’, which argues for curiosity-driven research, something which is seldom carried out today as a major push for applied and industrially-relevant chemistry appears to be taking place.

I always thoroughly enjoy learning about how an element was discovered, as I feel it takes us back to a more exciting time in science where curiosity and discovery drove researchers to carry out some amazing findings. Also, books such as these give a sense of what it’s really like to be on the verge of discovering something big, and the race to get there first, which is often missed in textbooks.

If you’d like to know more about this book, you can read Andrea’s review here.

Our second delve into scientific history is Love, Literature and the Quantum Atom: Niels Bohr’s 1913 Trilogy Revisited by Finn Aesrud and J. L. Heilbron, and reviewed by Philip Ball. This book tells the story of Neils Bohr, famous for his theory of the atom having a nucleus surrounded by moving electrons, from a very different perspective to what you might expect.

In the centenary year of the publication of ‘Bohr’s atom’, this book is perfectly timed, but Philip tells us it has the feeling of being ‘cobbled together’ for the occasion, hinting that it may have been rushed to completion.

The book offers us an insight into Neils Bohr’s personal life which hasn’t been seen before, including newly released correspondence with his wife.  This adds a new level of depth to the background of a key player in the history of our knowledge of the atom and so the field of Chemistry. I find it’s always interesting to learn more about the person behind such influential discoveries. Sometimes we forget that behind the theories, syntheses, hypotheses and experimentation that we see in the news, in journals and in books are real people with real lives, and books like this help us to remember and enjoy that. Indeed, Philip describes the book’s telling of Bohr’s intellectual journey as ‘insightful and informative’.

The unusual aspect of the book is Heilbron’s attempts to link Bohr’s interest in literature with his science. This appears to be unsuccessful, particularly as Philip describes Heilbron as using quotes from Bohr’s literary loves to ‘punctuate the story of Bohr’s profession life’ with no proof that they had actually affected Bohr’s thinking in any way during those events. This is unfortunate, as other parts of the book held real appeal, and this attempt to provide a new edge to Bohr’s story seems to fall flat.

For those wanting know more about Bohr’s theory of the atom, or just want to see it in its original form, the book also contains the reprints of the three papers he published in 1913 outlining his work.

Overall, Philip was left with ‘mixed feelings’ about Love, Literature and the Quantum Atom: Niels Bohr’s 1913 Trilogy Revisited, having not enjoyed the tenuous suggestions that Bohr’s choice of literature influenced his work. In a powerful take-away message to his review, Philip states that ‘Whatever it is that makes truly noble, responsible – let alone successful – scientists, it isn’t great art.’

To find out more about the book, you can read Philip’s review here, and if you’d like to learn more about Neils Bohr, you can find his autobiography on the Nobel Prize website here.

 

So, two books with very different subjects, but which each give us a journey through part of our chemical history. The journey human kind has gone through to arrive at the level of scientific knowledge that we have now is a complex and fascinating one, and these books offer us a fresh piece of that.

See what you think!

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