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Chemistry International
Vol. 24, No. 2
March 2002


The Synthesis and Naming of Elements 110 and Beyond

by Herbert Kaesz

A Joint Working Party (JWP) of IUPAC and the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP) has published its analysis of the claims for the syntheses of elements 110, 111, and 112 (P.J. Karol, Pure Appl. Chem. Vol. 73, No. 6, pp. 959-967, 2001).

The JWP has given credit for the synthesis of element 110 to a group at the Gesellschaft für Schwerionenforschung in Darmstadt, Germany. This laboratory has thus been invited to propose a name.

As to elements 111 and 112, the Joint Working Party did not feel that sufficient results have, as yet, been presented to assign credit for their discoveries. The difficulties in confirming syntheses of the heaviest elements is illustrated by the announcements in 1999 of the syntheses of elements 116 and 118, claims which were retracted this year. The earlier results could not be reproduced at the originating institution, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, nor at other centers for heavy-element synthesis in Germany and in Japan (Science, 3 Aug. 2001, Vol. 293, pp. 777-778; C&E News, 6 Aug. 2001, p. 10; Darleane Hoffman, private communication).

The JWP's analysis followed a procedure that was earlier established for elements 101-109 because claims of the synthesis of heavy elements can be controversial. Until discoveries are confirmed, elements are provisionally designated in terms expressing their atomic numbers in Latin, for example "ununnilium" (one-one-zero for 110), "unununium" (one-one-one for 111), and "ununbium" (one-one-two for 112). To avoid confusion, discoverers are asked to use an atomic number rather than a name in the literature until approval of a proposed name is received from IUPAC. If a particular name has been used unofficially for a given element but a different name is ultimately chosen, then the first name cannot be transferred at a later time to designate a different element.

A review on the naming of new elements, with a summary of the recommended current procedures, has been prepared by W.H. Koppenol. This document is now available for public review. The steps for arriving at a IUPAC approved name of a new element are illustrated in the table above.

Laboratories engaged in the synthesis of new elements are invited to submit claims and supporting evidence.

Herbert Kaesz is a professor at the University of California at Los Angeles, California, USA, and is a member of, among others, the Inorganic Chemistry Division Committee.


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