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Three new elements get official backing

By Hamish Johnston

Darmstadtium (Ds), roentgenium (Rg) and copernicium (Cn) are here to stay now that the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP) has approved the names of these three new elements.

The good news came yesterday at the General Assembly of IUPAP, which is running this week at the Institute of Physics (IOP) in London.

Robert Kirby-Harris, chief executive of the IOP and secretary-general of IUPAP, said, “The naming of these elements has been agreed in consultation with physicists around the world and we’re delighted to see them now being introduced to the periodic table.”

The approval ends the long process of naming a new element, which typically begins with its discovery at a nuclear physics lab. Indeed, these latest three were all discovered at the GSI lab near the German city of Darmstadt – which lent its name to Ds.

Both Rg and Ds were first spotted in 1994 and have 111 and 110 protons, respectively. With an atomic number of 112, Cn first burst on the scene in 1996.

Why has it taken so long for official approval? After GSI announced a discovery, it had to be reproduced at another facility – and then both the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) and IUPAP had to be convinced of the discovery. Then, the scientists who made the discovery suggest a name to the IUPAC/IUPAP Joint Working Party on the Discovery of Elements, which then recommends that the name be adopted. Finally, the name must be adopted by the General Assembly of IUPAP.

If you’d like to know more about how these and other elements were found, we’ve just published an article by Paddy Regan, a nuclear physicist at the University of Surrey who works on the RISING collaboration at GSI. You can read it here.

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