Each chemical element is made up of atoms with the same number of protons, and since each atom has a unique number of protons, called atomic number, all the elements can be grouped and ordered in a tabular arrangement, known as periodic table of elements. Other criteria for the arrangement are electron configuration and chemical properties. Of the 114 elements arranged on the table, the first 94 occur naturally on Earth and the remaining 20 are made in controlled lab conditions, dubbed synthetic elements, which are decaying and unstable. The recent groundbreaking discovery of four new elements has completed the seventh row of the periodic table, and as a result made all the chemistry textbooks outdated at once.
The four new elements, which are highly radioactive and can only live for fractions of a second before decaying into other elements, were discovered — or synthetically made — by scientists in Japan, Russia, and the United States and were recognized by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC).
“IUPAC has now initiated the process of formalizing 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),” said Professor Jan Reedijk, the president of the Inorganic Chemistry Division of IUPAC. He added that the chemistry community was eager to see its “most cherished table” was finally being completed down to its seventh row.
According to IUPAC rules, new elements can be named after a notable scientist, a mythological concept, a country, or a place. Moreover, the union must propose and approve a two-letter symbol for the newly-discovered elements to represent them in the table.
The atomic number rises as the count of protons in the atom’s nucleus increases, making the element heavier. The heaviest elements in nature are Plutonium (atomic number 94) and uranium (atomic number 92), beyond which, synthetic elements have to be created in lab through slamming elemental nuclei together.
In 1869, Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev designed and published the most well-known periodic table of elements with only 63 entries at the time. The table is not completed yet with scientists hoping to find an “island of stability” at or near element 120 or perhaps 126, containing elements that would stick around longer than fractions of a second.
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