At the tail end of 2015, the periodic table gained four new members—elements 113, 115, 117, and 118.
But blink and you’d definitely miss them. Three were found by a team of Russian and American scientists and one was discovered by a team working in Japan. The elements do not have officially names yet; they’re temporarily being called ununtrium, ununpentium, ununseptium, and ununoctium. Element 113, discovered by the team in Japan, will be the first element named in Asia, the Guardian notes.
These aren’t the sort of elements that can be found in the everyday world. They exist only briefly, and can be observed only in lab conditions. After the Japanese team caught a short glimpse of its element, which lasted less than a thousandth of a second, it took the scientists seven years to gather enough evidence to prove its existence.
Teams have already been working to synthesize the element with atomic number 119, another elusive, unstable element. There is the possibility, though, that eventually, if scientists keep finding elements deeper into the periodic table, at some point, they will find elements less likely to disappear in an instant—an “island of stability” of heavy elements. Still, though, the hunt for more periodic elements continues.
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