Naming elements, including the newly discovered nihonium, is a long and complex process. It usually takes five months until it receives the full approval of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC).
Thanks to the work of many scientists, four new elements have been recently discovered. Their names will probably be oganesson, tennessine, moscovium, and nihonium. Oganesson comes from the name of a Russian scientist who led the team that discovered this element, whereas tennessine and moscovium are related with Tennessee and Moscow.
Nihonium comes from Nihon, which means Japan in their mother tongue. In other words, all of these elements were discovered thanks to the efforts of Russian, Japanese and American scientists. According to Eric Scerri, UCLA chemistry professor and expert on the periodic table, nihonium is the first element that was discovered by an Asian country.
To this discovery contributed Kosuke Morita from the RIKEN Nishina Center for Accelerator-Based Science, who led a thorough research to make Asia become an official periodic table contributor. From now on, Oceania and Africa remain the only places that have not brought their contribution yet to the periodic table.
This breakthrough symbolizes the pride of Japan and a major step forward in the development of the scientific area. As mentioned previously, the process of naming elements is difficult, complex and usually takes a long period.
Every proposed name must respect a particular set of rules observed by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry. Therefore, elements can be named after mythological characters, scientists, elemental properties, places, and minerals.
For instance, the element thorium is named after Thor, the Norse god. The four names of the elements recently discovered will be open for comment for the following five months. It means that the decisions to name the elements are not settled yet. In other words, some changes are still possible.
According to Scerri, every element from the periodic table has a symbolic interpretation. Hopefully, scientists will double their efforts in the future to lead the way for the development of this scientific field. Plus, these four new elements might prove crucial in the years to come. All in all, Japan has become famous and the pride of Asia for the discovery of the new element, nihonium.