Element 117 has been given the official name "tennessine" and is named after the US State of Tennessee, the location of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) where it was originally brought into being.
The new element will take the chemical symbol Ts. Ts is a halogen, an element like chlorine and fluorine.
Ts does not occur in nature and can only be produced in the laboratory. Such elements are discovered by smashing together light nuclei and tracking the decay of the resulting superheavy elements.
Ts is a superheavy and very unstable element that only exists for fractions of a second. It was discovered by exposing one particular isotope – a variant of another element that has the same number of protons but different numbers of neutrons. The researchers found that on very rare occasions, two heavy nuclei combined to form Ts. In this case, calcium-48 and berkeleium-249 were used to produce tennessine.
In a statement, Tennessee Govenor Bill Haslam said, “The historic discovery of tennessine is emblematic of the contributions Tennessee institutions like Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the University of Tennessee and Vanderbilt University make toward a better world.”
In addition to Vanderbilt University and the University of Tennessee, research contributions came from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, and Russia’s Joint Institute for Nuclear Research.
The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) is responsible for validating the existence of new elements and confirming their names. Tennessine was originally discovered in 2010, but it was only officially confirmed as being physically real in 2015.