New words are added to the dictionary all the time, although some words get there faster than others.  Scientific and technological words often have a fairly easy and straighforward path, and today’s word is no exception.  Copernicium was added to the Merriam Webster this week, a scant (in etymological terms an absolute blink) two and a half years after the name was proposed and less than a year after the name was approved.  In 1996, researchers Sigurd Hofmann and Victor Ninov along with several colleagues bombarded a nucleus of Lead 208 with Zinc 70 in a heavy ion accelator creating a new element with the atomic weight of 112.  Only a single atom was created and this atom had a half life of approximately 30 seconds, but an element was discovered.  In the periodic table of the elements, it is a d-block element, which belongs to transactinide elements.  To date, only around 75 atoms of Copernicium (abbreviation Cn) have been made.  

In July of 2009, the team from the Gesellschaft für Schwerionenforschung, Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research near Darmstadt, Germany who created the first atom proposed the name Copernicium after Nicolaus Copernicus.  On 19 February 2010, the 537th anniversary of Copernicus’ birth, the name was officially accepted and was finally approved by the General Assembly of the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP) on November 4, 2011.

Image of Nicolaus Copernicus in the public domain.  

Image of the atomic structure of Copernicium by Pumbaa80 and Greg Robertson, used with permission under a Creative Commons 3.0 license.

Latin Names of Elements: Copernicium

Element 112: Copernicium

Latin Name: copernicium, coperniciī

  • Copernicus, Copernicī “ - Nicolaus Copernicus
  • — > [ copernico] — stem
  • — > [ copernico] + [ io- ] — with stem of elemental suffix -ium
  • — > [ copernic] + [ io- ] — [ io- ] assimilates ending in [ copernico]
  • — > [ copernicio- ] — new stem implying “Copernicus element”
  • = “copernicium, coperniciī ” - second-declension neuter

So named “to honor an outstanding scientist, who changed our view of the world.”


(Image Source)

Copernicium opens the door to elements 114 and 116…

Posted by Phillip on Thu 2 Jun 2011 | Chemistry World Blog

…but elements 113, 115 and 118 will have to wait a little longer to receive their official recognition from the International Union for Pure and Applied Chemistry (Iupac).

Both elements have been credited to a collaboration between Yuri Oganessian’s team at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna, Russia, and a team from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, US.

My guess is that these teams will now have to work out between them what to call the latest additions to the elemental lexicon. I’ll keep my ear to the ground for any official announcements, but in the meantime, has anyone got any suggestions?

Getting a new element onto the periodic table is a slow business – the time between claiming the discovery of it and official recognition is often over 10 years. The work must be reproduced by independent groups, and often verified and shored up by complementary experiments. Then come the official deliberations from Iupac to study all the evidence and claims and decide who should get the honour of the discovery – and with it the chance to decide on a name for the new elements.

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