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Robert Grzywacz
Robert Grzywacz

It’s official: Tennessee now has a certified spot on the periodic table.

Researchers announced that Tennessine  had been submitted in June as the name for what was known as element 117 in a nod to the state of Tennessee for the efforts from three of its powerhouse research institutions in the discovery. It will carry the symbol Ts.

Now that the probationary period has passed, the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry’s recognition of the contributions of UT, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Vanderbilt University is permanent.

“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,” Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said. “On behalf of all Tennesseans we thank this world body for honoring our state this way.”

For UT, Robert Grzywacz, director of the UT-ORNL Joint Institute for Nuclear Physics and Applications and a physics professor at the university, served as the connection to the project. He  helped develop a process to measure the decay of nuclear materials that helped prove the element’s existence.

“We are honored that UT played a role in the discovery of this new element, and we are thrilled that our state and our university will forever enjoy seeing Tennessine on the periodic table,” said Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek. “The efforts of Dr. Grzywacz and his are to be applauded.”

It joins Californium as the only element named for a state and, given that Tennessee got its name from the Cherokee village of Tanasi, becomes the first element whose name reflects Native American roots.

IUPAC, the official body that approves elements and their names, began the long process of sanctioning the discovery nearly one year ago, more than five years after researchers first reported on its discovery.

Tennessine is a member of Group 17, commonly known as the halogens, on the periodic table. Other members of that group are fluorine, chlorine, bromine, iodine, and astatine.

It is considered a superheavy element, one that owes its existence to being synthesized in a lab as it does not occur naturally.

For more on the story, including details on the naming of Tennessine’s fellow elements numbered 114, 115, and 118, visit ORNL’s website.