Heavy New Elements Get New Names

The periodic table’s unnamed members just got names. Three new elements Atomic numbers 110, 111 and 112 got named as the General Assembly of the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP), along with the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) agreed to their new names. They are now called darmstadtium (Ds), roentgenium (Rg) and copernicium (Cn), after the German city of Darmstadt, physicist Wilhelm Roentgen and Nicolaus Copernicus respectively.

All of these elements are Transuranic elements meaning that they are extremely heavy (heavier than Uranium) and unstable. They do not occur in Nature (nothing heavier than Uranium does) and can only be synthesized in a laboratory. Even then, these elements survive for a very short time.

Naming Conventions

Earlier the names were given according to the IUPAC prescription for naming elements. The atomic number gave the names. Take an example 111. Each 1 contributes a un’ in the name. The metallic nature of the element adds a ium’ at the end. This atomic no. 111 would be called unununium. Similarly, atomic no. 112 would be called ununbium, with 2′ contributing bi’. 110 would be called ununnilium, 0′ contributing a nil’.

The New Names and the Elements Behind The Names

Atomic Number 110

Ununnilium has been christened darmstadtium, given that it was first synthesized at the GSI facility for Heavy Ion Research near the German city of Darmstadt by Sigurd Hoffmann and his team.

Atomic Number 111

Unununium was replaced by roentegenium, in honour of Wilhelm Roentgen, who was the discoverer of X-rays. He was also the first recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics, in 1901.

Atomic Number 112

Ununbium received the name copernicium’, in the honour of the great astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus, who was the first one to propose (and stick to!) the heliocentric model of the Solar System (the known Universe at that time). The credit of synthesis again goes to Sigurd Hoffmann, who smashed together zinc and lead atoms to create a single atom of ununbium in 1996. This wasn’t enough to warrant a discovery. Since then, 75 atoms of ununbium have been synthesized worldwide. These numbers should give you a sense of the rarity of these elements!

New Periodic Tables should soon come out with these new elements named. The human contribution to the Periodic Table continues unabated, as we continue our attempts of scientific alchemy.

Published by

Debjyoti Bardhan

Is a science geek, currently pursuing some sort of a degree (called a PhD) in Physics at TIFR, Mumbai. An enthusiastic but useless amateur photographer, his most favourite activity is simply lazing around. He is interested in all things interesting and scientific.

  • maddeelol’s12

    this is so cool i wish i could learn more!!!!! :P