Earlier this year, the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) accepted evidence indicating that we had produced four new elements, filling in the bottom row of the periodic table. Back then, they were given temporary names — and catchy ones, too. We’ll all be sad to see ununseptium (element 117) disappear, but you’ll be happy to know that the formal names are probably just as hard to pronounce correctly.
Three of the new names honor the places where the elements were produced; the fourth recognizes a key person who helped organize the work involved.
For element 113, Japan is recognized by one of its alternate names, Nihon. The element will be called nihonium and bear the symbol Nh. The remaining elements were produced through collaboration between the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Russia and two of the US National Laboratories: Oak Ridge and Lawrence Livermore. Element 115 honors the Russian part of that collaboration with the name moscovium (symbol Mc). 117 treats Oak Ridge by being named tennessine or Ts. Lawrence Livermore is unlucky enough to be in California, where an element is already named after, so it is omitted.
That leaves element 118, named after Yuri Oganessian, a key figure in the research of these ultraheavy elements. In elementary terms, his name leads to oganesson or Og.
The committee involved in this approval notes that Ts, the new symbol for tennessine, is also used as an abbreviation for a chemical group called tosyl. But frankly, it doesn’t matter (“this is not considered a valid objection,” write the authors representing the IUPAC). Since the names of the elements have been approved by all relevant parties and the public comments period has passed, fans of tosyl groups are out of luck.