Scientist hopes new element nihonium sparks interest in science


The leader of a team of Japanese scientists who created the new synthetic element nihonium, named after Japan, says he hopes it will spark pride and interest in science among Japanese children.

At a press conference in Fukuoka, Kosuke Morita, a Kyushu University professor who led the team at the government-backed Riken institute, said he feels very emotional about having an element whose name includes “nihon,” meaning Japan in Japanese, in the periodic table.

Riken announced the previous day that the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry had formally approved the name for the element with the atomic number 113. It is the first time that scientists from an Asian country have named an atomic element.

Morita said he hopes children in Japan will develop a greater interest in science now that nihonium is set to appear in school textbooks in the near future.

At the press conference Riken president Hiroshi Matsumoto praised Morita’s team for achieving the feat by bringing out the best among the institute’s researchers.

The artificially synthesized element has 113 protons in its nucleus. The team created the element by colliding zinc ions with bismuth, which have 30 protons and 83 protons, respectively.

The team secured the naming rights last December after successfully synthesizing the element three times, in 2004, 2005 and 2012.

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