Officials have agreed to add a new element to the periodic table. But they won’t do so until the team which discovered it comes up with a permanent name.
The element will become the 112th to appear on the table (in the gap below mercury), as determined by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC). It’s made from a fusion of zinc and lead. Although the first atom was created in 1996, it took several attempts to produce enough evidence to earn IUPAC approval last month.
The process of creating the element, which involves using a particle accelerator to fire charged zinc atoms at lead atoms, is extremely difficult and only four atoms have ever been created.
The new element currently has the temporary name ununbium, adapted from the Latin for 112. However, IUPAC is asking for a permanent name to be chosen by Professor Sigurd Hoffman of the Centre for Ion Research in Germany, which discovered the element. The centre was also responsible for discovering the previous four elements which now reside in the period table.
The element is one of a group categorized as transuranium, also known as superheavy. These are elements with more protons than the 92 found in uranium, and are characterized by being radioactive and rapidly decaying into other elements. The best known is probably plutonium.
The superheavy elements are split into two sub-categories. The new element, as with all with atomic number above 103, fits into the transactinide group. These are ones which have never been found occurring naturally and have instead been created in labs. Because the decay starts just milliseconds after creation, scientists don’t yet have a way of creating atoms which can serve any practical purpose.
Elements with atomic numbers of 113 to 116, as well as 118, have already been confirmed to exist, but have not yet been demonstrated to the satisfaction of IUPAC.
So what do GeeksAreSexy readers suggest for naming the new element? I’m proposing emergencium, in recognition of 112 being the number for calling for emergency services in both many domestic landline networks and on three billion cellphones worldwide.