The periodic table adds a new element: Copernicium

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

There's a new element officially on the periodic table, and its name is copernicium, after the 16th-century Polish scientist Nicholas Copernicus. It is element 112 and its symbol is Cn.

Copernicium, a heavier relative of zinc, cadmium and mercury, was first seen in 1996 by researchers at the Society for Heavy Ions Research in Darmstadt, Germany, after they bombarded a lead target with zinc ions.

It took the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry, which regulates nomenclature, nearly 14 years to resolve disputes between the Germans and American researchers over who was first to produce the new element. In the March issue of the journal Pure and Applied Chemistry, the agency reported that the Germans had priority and were entitled to propose a name.

Physicist Sigurd Hofmann, leader of the German team, said in a statement that it chose copernicium to "salute an influential scientist who didn't receive any accolades in his own lifetime, and highlight the link between astronomy and the field of nuclear chemistry." Copernicus was the first scientist to conclude that the planets of the solar system revolve around the sun rather than Earth.

The new name follows in the recent tradition of naming artificially produced elements after famous scientists. Others include roentgenium, element 111, named after German physicist Wilhelm Roentgen, who discovered X-rays; and bohrium, element 107, named after Danish physicist Niels Bohr, who made fundamental contributions to the understanding of atomic structure and quantum mechanics.

The IUPAC has not yet resolved competing claims over the discovery of elements 113 through 118.

-- Los Angeles Times

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