IUPAC naming conventions Science

Let’s call it darmstadtium

What you are seeing is a student hostel in Darmstadt - a city that lends its name to the element 110.   | Photo Credit: RALPH ORLOWSKI

The Heavy Ion Research Laboratory at Darmstadt, Germany has a thing for elements. It started off with bohrium in 1981. Meitnerium came in next in 1982, followed by hassium in 1984, roentgenium in 1994 and copernicium in 1996. In the discovery of each of these heavy elements, the Heavy Ion Research Laboratory had a role to play.

A week’s effort

So when the Gesellschaft fur Schwerionenforschung team under the leadership of Peter Armbruster and Gottfried Munzenber discovered element 110 here on November 9, 1994, it really came as no surprise. By using a linear accelerator, they bombarded over a billion billion nickel-62 atoms at a lead-208 target for almost a week.

The result? One atom of element 110 was produced as a product of this experiment.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Photo: Wikimedia Commons  

Exercising the prerogative of discoverers, the scientists proposed the name darmstadtium, naming it after the city in which the element was discovered. And when the chemists met in Ottawa on August 16, 2003, they voted in favour of the proposed name and made it official.

Darmstadtium, with the chemical symbol Ds, is a synthetic, radioactive element about which we are still learning. The half-lives of nine isotopes of darmstadtium are known and even the most stable of these has a half-life of about 20 seconds, after which it decays.

What’s in a name?

It was mentioned earlier that the discoverers used their prerogative to name element 110. In fact, every new element that is being discovered these days goes through a specific procedure before getting itself a name.

The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry, IUPAC in short, recently revised the guidelines for naming new elements. According to this, newly discovered elements can be named after: (i) a mythological concept or character, including astronomical objects; (ii) a mineral or similar substance; (iii) a place, or geographical region; (iv) a property of the element; or (v) a scientist.

Apart from these, the ending should be “-ium” for elements belonging to groups 1-16, “-ine” for those in group 17 and “-on” for group 18 elements. Translation of the name from English into other major languages should also be possible.

Once the name is proposed, it is reviewed by IUPAC and recommended for acceptance. The formal approval by the IUPAC council happens after the proposed name undergoes months of public review. And darmstadtium went through all this before being finally accepted.

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Printable version | Jul 27, 2021 12:27:49 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/in-school/sh-science/Let%E2%80%99s-call-it-darmstadtium/article14574432.ece

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