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Friday, 2nd December 2016
In General Japan News,

Japanese scientists become first in Asia to name element

Japan already has many accolades to its name, but recently it has added to these by being the first Asian country to name a chemical element. The substance - nihonium - was synthesised for the first time ever by a team of scientists from Japan's Riken research institute in 2004, giving the researchers permission to name it.

This was formally endorsed by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) on Monday (28th November), along with three other elements: moscovium, tennessine and oganesson. These were named by teams from the US and Russia.

Nihonium - named after the Japanese word for Japan, as covered here - has an atomic number of 113, which means its nucleus contains 113 protons. It does not occur naturally, as it is highly radioactive and decays extremely quickly.

The scientists had to create it in a laboratory, which they managed to do three times: in 2004, 2005 and most recently in 2012. After the first instance, they had to work hard to confirm that the element had existed and wasn't just an error, hence the multiple occasions over several years.

To achieve this, the team of researchers had to collide ions of zinc - which has 30 protons in its nucleus - with bismuth, which contains 83 protons. A US-Russian team claimed they had done this before the Riken scientists, but IUPAC investigated and found the Japanese team to be the first.

Kosuke Morita, professor at Kyushu University and leader of the Riken team, said: "The periodic table is a great legacy in chemistry. I’m filled with deep emotion that there is an element with a Japanese name." He added that he hoped children would be proud of seeing it once it appeared in textbooks.

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