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Elements 112 and 113 in our International Year of the Periodic Table series are copernicium and nihonium – the latter of which was the first element to be discovered in an Asian country.

We’re getting to the part of the periodic table where the elements get so heavy they start to get weird. Copernicium is an excellent example of this – it would be expected to be a solid metal based on its position in the periodic table, but calculations suggest it will be a volatile liquid that acts more like a noble gas. This is down to relativistic effects. Put very simply, the atoms’ nucleus is so heavy that the electrons around it are pulled closer and move at speeds approaching the speed of light, causing unusual and unexpected effects.

Less is known about the properties of nihonium, as it’s one of the most recently announced element discoveries. It was announced along with elements 115, 117 and 118 in 2016 – discovered in Japan, it’s the first element to be discovered in an Asian country, and is named after the Japanese word for Japan (Nihon).

Remember, you can keep track of all of the previous entries in this series on the site here, or on the Royal Society of Chemistry’s dedicated page.

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