New Elements on the Periodic Table

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The periodic table is expanding! Two elements, first discovered in 1998 and 2000, have been recognized by an international committee of chemists. The names of the new elements are their atomic numbers pronounced in Latin: Element 114 is Ununquadrium (Uuq), Latin for “one-one-four,” and element 116 is Ununhexium (Uuh), Latin for “one-one-six.”

Poster from Photo: ACS Staff.

Don’t expect to see these newly discovered elements in your next lab experiments because they can be created only in particle accelerators. In these accelerators, more familiar atoms—such as calcium and plutonium—are smashed against each other to make them stick together and form a heavier element. But the Uuq and Uuh atoms exist for only a short time before decaying into other atoms. Uuq lasts a few seconds and Uuh only a fraction of a second.

Scientists have also produced elements 113, 115, and 118, however their existence needs to be confirmed by other scientists before being officially recognized as new elements. One of the next big questions is, “What happens after element 118?” As the periodic table shows, element 118 comes at the end of a row. No one knows what atomic configuration element 119 will have. Researchers will keep smashing atoms together to find out!

—Roberta Baxter