New Element Names Released


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!



Four New Elements Finally Fill Up Seventh Row


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!


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US Research Team Generate Carbon Fibres From Air


If you’ve been paying attention to the world of chemistry, physics or materials science in the past couple of decades or so, you’ll know that carbon nanomaterials have been really hitting the headlines. Graphene, fullerenes, nanotubes and nanofibres have been advertised as possible new materials for a variety of applications, and research groups have sprouted up around the globe to investigate these.

Now, Professor Stuart Licht of Washington University has found a way to produce such materials by capturing and transforming the CO2 found in the air around us. Licht uses a one-pot synthesis to produce the fibres, which utilises molten electrolysis with inexpensive Nickel and Iron electrodes.

Although it has only been developed to a 10 gram per hour scale so far, the process has potential to efficiently produce high quantities of this useful material. Professor Licht even suggests that this may be a viable way to remove the greenhouse gas from the atmosphere, but whether this proves viable on a large enough scale to be significant is uncertain.

Nevertheless, the proven ability to cheaply and efficiently turn the carbon from the air around us into a useful material is not only impressive, but exciting for the future.


Helium Recycling Wins Guardian Sustainability Award

I was very proud to see that The Guardian awarded my own University of Nottingham with a University Award for in the sustainability category. The award was given for a project headed up by the Schools of Chemistry and Physics involving the creation of a helium recycling hub which is able to recover helium efficiently with a very high purity. The conservation of our limited helium resources is something I feel very passionately about myself, and it’s great to see my university putting resources into solving this global issue. The new plant works at a high efficiency, saving money and reducing the university’s reliance on outside helium sources. As our precious global helium stocks dwindle more effort needs to be put into projects such as these, so that vital technology such as MRI machines and, as we chemists know, NMR machines can continue to be used. So, congratulations to Nottingham, and let’s hope this sort of technology is adopted elsewhere!


Atomic Threesomes Explained

This interesting article from the Nature News website explains the extraordinary quantum chemical phenomenon of Efimov states – when three atoms or particles come together in a way that allows them to interact when two wouldn’t be able to.

In 2006, the theory became reality when a group of researchers observed the state in caesium atoms. However, these states are extremely fragile, and can only be observed at the very lowest temperatures possible experimentally. The interesting news in this latest find is that an excited state of the caesium triplet has been found which, interestingly, is larger than its predecessor, whilst still retaining its 3-atom shape. The sizes of these states are massive – with excited states reaching micrometre sizes.

Although complicated, this is fascinating science, which could be useful in explaining or predicting a range of unusual scientific phenomena, such as understanding the nature of the nucleus of the 11-Li isotope.


Tidbit: element 117 seen once again!

Element 117 – Ununseptium – has only been detected twice before by the same team of Russian scientists, but an independent confirmation of the presence of the element by researchers from GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research in Germany may lead to the inclusion of this elusive element in the periodic table once and for all.

Scientists all over the world are trying to create new heavy elements in order to finally locate the ‘island of stability’ – where a group of very large but extremely stable elements are thought to exist, and this group of researchers were intending to synthesise the never before seen element 119 as part of this quest.

Unfortunately, this method of producing element 117 is not easily reproduced. The team tried fired titanium at berkelium, which itself is extremely unstable,produced only in small amounts in nuclear reactors and has a half life of less than a year. Therefore, experiments such as this take a significant amount of time to repeat.

The detection of new elements is always exciting, and the third detection of element 117 could be the push which finally sees it given its place on the periodic table. Watch this space!


Is our Universe a Hologram?

I’ve posted a lot of links lately, but I really think this will catch your interest.

An article on the Nature News website describes recent work published by Japanese physicists suggest that the long debated ‘string theory’ could actually be true, and that our universe could be a hologram of a cosmos with no gravity.

This theory was suggested by Maldacena in 1997, and has been made even more famous by fictional physicist Sheldon Cooper in the popular sitcom Big Bang Theory.

Now, simulations provide compelling evidence for this theory, and could allow the nature of our own universe to be better understood.

Cool stuff!