Texas A&M University Institute of Advanced Studies

Proposal would name new element in periodic table after TIAS Faculty Fellow Yuri Oganessian

‘Oganesson’ would become second element named for living scientist

Yuri Oganessian in front of a whiteboard

COLLEGE STATION – The world’s governing body for chemistry, the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC), has proposed naming a new element after Russian physicist Yuri Oganessian, a Faculty Fellow with the Texas A&M University Institute for Advanced Study (TIAS), Class of 2014-15.

Under the proposal from IUPAC, the new element with the atomic number 118 will receive the name “oganesson” and the periodic symbol Og. (An atomic number is the number of protons found in the nucleus of an atom of a specific element.) The element is one of four to be added to the table in January after a confirmation process. If the name is approved on Nov. 8, after a public review, it will mark only the second time in history that an element is named for a living scientist. In a statement, IUPAC said its proposal recognizes Oganessian for his pioneering contributions to research into elements with atomic numbers greater than 103, including “the discovery of superheavy elements and significant advances in the nuclear physics of superheavy nuclei.”

“It is a great honor for me,” Oganessian said, “as well as a measure of my input into the science of the super heavy elements.” Oganessian is the scientific leader of the Flerov Laboratory of Nuclear Reactions at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna, about 80 miles north of Moscow, where he has worked since 1956. The new element is one of six that he and his team have discovered since 2000. Oganessian’s collaborators during the last 20 years have included Texas A&M University’s Cyclotron Institute as well as the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Vanderbilt University.

TIAS Founding Director John L. Junkins said, “We congratulate Dr. Oganessian on receiving this rare, history-making honor and applaud his many fundamental contributions to chemistry. His achievements in discovery of methods to synthesize heretofore unknown heavy elements have transformed his field and epitomize the high levels of innovation and advanced scholarship that the Fellows of our Institute bring to the Texas A&M campus every year. 

Each year TIAS invites a number of nationally and internationally prominent Faculty Fellows to pursue advanced study at TIAS in collaboration with faculty and student scholars at Texas A&M. As a Faculty Fellow, Oganessian collaborated with Texas A&M faculty and students in the Cyclotron Institute and the Department of Physics and Astronomy in the College of Science.

An acknowledged leader in experimental nuclear physics, and a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Oganessian conducts research into nuclear reactions with a focus on the synthesis of new chemical elements. “My scientific interests for many years have connected with the experimental research of the heaviest elements at the border of the nuclear masses: the synthesis of nuclear heavyweights in nuclear reactions, their transformation and decay properties,” Oganessian said. “This is a wide field that includes the latest accomplishments in nuclear physics, nuclear chemistry, plasma physics, accelerator technology, etc.” 

Oganessian proposed—and with his colleagues, developed­—a method to synthesize extremely heavy nuclei through fusion reactions of calcium-48 nuclei, an extremely rare isotope of calcium with 20 protons and 28 neutrons, with nuclei of artificial actinide elements.  “We have been working for more than 20 years with our American colleagues from Livermore National Laboratory and the Cyclotron Institute of Texas A&M University,” Oganessian said. “Later in the collaboration physicists and chemists from Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Vanderbilt University were included. In the time span of 15 years – from 2000 to 2015 – six elements with atomic numbers of 113 through 118 were synthesized for the first time. Our articles were signed by 50 co-authors.”