Unless our conception of the periodic table is wrong (and wouldn't that be fun?), there are no new chemical elements to discover. All the existing building blocks of the universe have been identified and the only potential new elements are those that we concoct on our own rather than discover anew.
Brand new elements, created by clever chemists, lie in the upper netherworld of the table. Claims have been made for all atomic numbers through 118 (and in some shakier cases beyond 118) but the process of certifying and then naming the elements is tightly regulated through the good offices of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry. This can be a lengthy, sometimes contentious, process, and there are often disputes over whether the evidence is strong enough to verify the existence of a new element, who gets first credit for the discovery, and what name to bestow on the new substance. Luckily, the dedicated folks at IUPAC—almost all of whom are volunteers—labor in service to science to conclude this vital work.
The reward for all this effort is the occasional announcement of a brand spanking new element or the anointment of an already certified one with its official nomenclature. If you watch the news today (or perhaps tomorrow) you will be among the first to know that not just one, but two elements (114 and 116) will be baptized with their newly official names. Welcome to the universe Uuq and Uuh!
Tom Tritton is President and CEO of CHF.
You Can Call Me 114 [Periodic Tabloid]
Episode 4: Measurement [Distillations]