By Michael Banks
If you have ever discovered something such as a new theory or particle then maybe the most fun part would be giving it a name.
So this is exactly what Sigurd Hofmann and his group at the Centre for Heavy Ion Research (GSI in Darmstadt, Germany, are doing now as they rack their brains for a name for the newly discovered element 112.
Hofmann already created one atom of the element, which has 112 protons in the nucleus, in 1996 while at GSI. The element was then temporarily given the catchy name of Ununbium, after “ununbi” which is latin for “one one two”.
However, the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC, which develops standards for naming new elements and compounds, stated that the production of any new element must be independently verified at another lab first before it can be officially recognised.
The difficulty was that, at the time, there was no other laboratory in the world that could reproduce the results, meaning a long waiting game for Hofmann.
Then eight years later, in 2004, scientists at the RIKEN Discovery Research Institute near Toyko produced two more atoms of element 112. This finally convinced the IUPAC, but due to other claims on the discovery of element 112 it took the union another five years to investigate and decide who did actually discover it.
In May 2009, an IUPAC report stated that Hofmann’s group did fulfil all the criteria for creating the new element and so Hofmann can now submit a name for the element to the IUPAC.
Once the IUPAC have received the name, they will then publish it on their website for six months giving scientists and the public more than enough time to scrutinise and comment on the new name.
“Our group is presently discussing a name and we hope to present it within the next two or three weeks,” Hofmann told physicsworld.com. “However, this discussion is top secret.”
The GSI lab is getting a lot of practice naming elements as it has already found elements 107 to 111. These are Bohrium (107), Hassium (108), Meitnerium (109), Darmstadtium (110) and Roentgenium (111).
So physicsworld.com readers have you any suggestions what they should name element 112?