Element 112 has a name! Taken from Nicolaus Copernicus, the man who said that the universe didn’t revolve around the Earth, and that we were actually spinning round our star, the Sun.
Element 112, first discovered in 1996 by the group of Sigurd Hofmann at the centre for heavy ion research in Darmstadt, Germany has been in want of a name since it was officially recognised by the International Union of Pure an Applied Chemistry last month.
Hofmann wanted to buck the recent trend of element naming to come out of his lab – which gave us a rush of elements named after fairly modern-era scientists: Bohr, Meitner, Roentgen, as well as a couple named after places nearby: Hess and Darmstadt.
“We wanted to make a step into history and we looked for people who changed our thinking,” Hofmann told me. Apparently there were other candidates but Hofmann was being coy about naming them.
Copernicium (with the middle ‘c’ pronounced as a ‘ts’) won’t be officially official until the IUPAC has gone through its lengthy procedure of checking the name and suggested abbreviation – more of which shortly – and making the suggested name known to the public for six months.
As for that abbreviation, Hofmann’s suggestion is Cp. This, of course, to you chemistry geeks out there, is also a commonly used abbreviation for the cyclopentadienyl group (a ring of five carbon atoms with five hydrogen atoms).
An alternative would be Cn – but Hofmann is worried that that looks a little too much like Cu, which has already been bagsied by copper.
And next? Well, Hofmann has already begun his search for element 120, and hopes that this will give him another go at choosing a name. The next chance to name an element is likely to be a group at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna, Russia, where IUPAC is considering claims that they made elements 113 and 115, and possibly even 118.