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Attention Science Teachers: Your Periodic Tables Are Now Out of Date

By Liana Loewus — January 05, 2016 1 min read

Last week, the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry, a scientific nongovernmental body, formally announced that four new elements will be added to the periodic table, rounding out the seventh row of the iconic chart.

The new elements are all classified as “super-heavy,” meaning they have more than 104 protons. They were created using particle accelerators and, like other super-heavy elements, exist for only a brief moment—as little as a fraction of a second—before decaying.

The elements are temporarily named ununtrium (element 113), ununpentium (115), ununseptium (117), and ununoctium (118). According to the IUPAC, “the discoverers from Japan, Russia, and the U.S.A. will now be invited to suggest permanent names and symbols.”

New elements can be “named after a mythological concept, a mineral, a place or country, a property or a scientist,” according to the IUPAC.

This is the first time elements were added to the table since 2011, reports the Wall Street Journal. And ununtrium (113) was discovered at Japan’s Riken Institute, making it the first element to have been discovered in Asia.

“The chemistry community is eager to see its most cherished table finally being completed down to the seventh row,” professor Jan Reedijk, the president of the inorganic chemistry division of IUPAC, said in a statement.

Unfortunately, as science teachers know, textbooks often don’t keep up with the times. So it could be quite a few years before students see that completed seventh row in their chemistry books.

Image: Kosuke Morita, of the Riken Nishina Center for Accelerator-Based Science, points at periodic table of the elements during a press conference in Wako, Japan, on New Year’s Eve. A team of Japanese scientists have met the criteria for naming a new element, the synthetic highly radioactive element 113, more than a dozen years after they began working to create it. —Kyodo News via AP


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A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.