Scientists have added two new elements to the periodic table, the first additions since 2009.
Known as numbers 114 and 116 until they are officially named, the new elements were created through a process known as “cross-bombardment,” in which particles are hurtled into one another through an accelerator.
Scientists from the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna, Russia, and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, California, are credited with the discoveries, according to the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry, the organization that reviews claims of potential new elements. The researchers smashed calcium into plutonium to create 114, and calcium into curium for 116, the group said in an article published June 1.
“The periodic table is the focus point of the whole field of chemistry,” said Paul Karol, a professor of chemistry at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and chair of the committee that made the recommendation to add the elements. “It’s always exciting when a new element gets added to it.”
The last new element, copernicium, was added in 2009, Karol said. The elements 114 and 116 will be named by the Russian discoverers, he said. Their numbers refer to how many protons are in the atomic nucleus. The chemistry group ruled that three elements, 113, 115 and 118, didn’t meet criteria for discovery.
The periodic table is a chart that lists pure chemical materials called elements. Whether the new elements will be useful isn’t known yet, Karol said. The timing of the recommendation happened during a particularly celebratory year in the field, he said.
“It turns out this is the International Year of Chemistry,” Karol said. “It’s also the 100th anniversary of the year Marie Curie got the Nobel Prize in chemistry for discovering two elements.”
Curie won the prize for discovering radium and polonium. Curium, an element in the research that created 116, was named after Curie and her husband, Pierre.