WASHINGTON - Two new elements are being added to the periodic table after they were discovered through a collaboration between US and Russian scientists, a top US chemistry expert said Friday.
The elements are the first to be added since copernicium in 2009. They have not yet been named, but are known for now as 114 and 116.
"Over the past 250 years, there have been basically 100 new elements discovered," said Paul Karol, a chemistry professor at Carnegie Mellon University and chair of the committee that recommended the additions.
"But it is becoming more and more difficult to do this so when a new element is discovered, it's actually pretty exciting."
The pair were found through atom-smasher experiments called cross-bombardments, according to research published by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry.
The experiments, hosted at the Joint Institute of Nuclear Research in Dubna, Russia and in cooperation with a US team based at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Berkeley, California, smashed calcium together with plutonium to make 114, and calcium with curium for 116.
"So they smash those two together and if they fuse, if they stick, you have then made something that is the sum of the two pieces and that is where the new elements come from," Karol told AFP.
The new elements were first detected in 2004 and 2006, but it took years to confirm them.
Now the naming process gets under way, which could takes weeks or months.
"They have named things after geographic places, sometimes people, Greek gods," said Karol, noting that the only restriction is that any name must end in -ium.
"Actually, a community of strange people out in the world see a new element has been discovered and start sending their own suggestions," said Karol, who is not involved with the naming.
"I actually regretted not having kept a scrapbook of some of these. They can be weird, they can be politically incorrect. It is actually fun."