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Thursday, 9th June 2016
In General Japan News,

Japanese scientists to name newly discovered element nihonium

Plans are afoot for scientists in Japan who discovered the new element with the atomic number 113 nihonium, the Riken Institute has announced. The International Union of Pure Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) is set to authorise the move to honour the team of researchers at the Japanese Institute on Science, who made the discovery.

Nihon is the Japanese word for Japan and seems an appropriate tribute to the first scientists from an Asian country to name an atomic element. It will mean that the superheavy synthetic element will have the atomic symbol Nh.

Naming rights were officially granted to the team led by Kyushu University professor Kosuke Morita in December. He and his colleagues had successfully created the element on three separate occasions in 2004, 2005 and 2012, proving the experiment could be reproduced.

A counterclaim was submitted to the IUPAC by a collaborative team of scientists from the US and Russia, suggesting they had discovered the element. As the body that oversees such decisions, the IUPAC investigated, but ruled that the Riken Institute identified it first.

Having submitted the nihonium suggestion to IUPAC, Morita and his team is currently waiting for the five-month review period to be completed. This involves collecting opinions from the public to ensure that the proposed name meets with approval.
Morita told Kyodo News: “I don’t want to propose a name that will not be accepted by everyone. I hope [Japanese people] will understand it.”

According to the Riken Institute and a number of other experts in the matter, no previous proposals have ever been altered at this stage. While there is always a first time for everything, this makes it unlikely that the plan to call element 113 nihonium will be blocked.

The element, which was artificially synthesised, contains 113 protons within its nucleus. The Riken team collided zinc ions with bismuth, so that the 30 protons in the former could combine with the 83 protons in the latter. So-called nihonium will be found in the seventh row of the Periodic Table.

Learning more about the nature of the new element is a difficult task, as it only exists for a five-hundredth of a second after it is created. Its discovery and naming process are just the beginnings of the potential for this new breakthrough in science.

Aiko Shimajiri, the state minister in charge of science and technology policy for Japan, said she hopes the discovery “will raise children’s awareness over science and will serve as a chance for global youth to feel familiarity with Japan.”