On New Year’s Eve, a team of researchers at RIKEN Nishina Center for Accelerator-Based Science in Japan were notified by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) that they would have the honor of naming element 113. The news came almost 12 years after the RIKEN team first synthesized the element in a lab, and three years after they conclusively demonstrated its decay chain. It will be the first element named by an Asian research institution.
“To scientists, this is of greater value than an Olympic gold medal,” said Ryoji Noyori, former RIKEN president and Nobel laureate in chemistry.
Element 113, provisionally known as ununtrium (Latin for ‘one one three’, signifying its atomic number) is a highly radioactive element that isn’t found in nature. It is located in the wild west of the periodic table, home to recently-synthesized superheavy synthetic elements which have no real practical purpose due to their incredibly short half-lives. Here, ununtrium can be found nestled between elements copernicium and flerovium.