- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 8, 2016

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Tennessee will soon be the second state honored on the periodic table of elements.

The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry on Wednesday recommended the names of four recently discovered elements that are now only known by numbers. The proposed name for element 117 is tennessine, (TEH’-neh-seen) in honor of the contributions of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Vanderbilt University and the University of Tennessee to the development of super heavy elements.

California was the first state to be named after an element. Now tennessine will be added to the table along with the more familiar elements such as hydrogen, oxygen and lead.

Vanderbilt physics Professor Joe Hamilton, a member of the international team that developed the new element, said it’s been a long time coming. The chemistry organization verified the element in December.

“The hard part is I’ve known the name for some time but I couldn’t tell anybody,” said the 83-year-old renowned nuclear physicist.

The professor said IUPAC has never turned down a proposed name, but he wasn’t going to take his chances and kept it secret.

Still, that didn’t stop Hamilton from getting a license plate TN 117 on his gold Cadillac DTS. Unfortunately, he couldn’t use the Tn symbol for the element - that was used in the past and couldn’t be reassigned. Instead, tennessine will go by the symbol of Ts and be in the seventh column of the periodic table.

U.S. Sen Lamar Alexander praised the name.

“Today’s announcement that ‘tennessine’ is the proposed name of a newly discovered element is a testament to the remarkable Tennessee talent that led to the discovery,” Alexander said in a statement. “The contributions of Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the University of Tennessee working with Vanderbilt University and other international collaborators remind us of the extraordinary scientific brainpower and technological capabilities in our state.”

The discovery of tennessine was made by an international team composed of scientists from the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna, Russia, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Vanderbilt University, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the Research Institute for Advanced Reactors in Dimitorovgrad, Russia.

Hamilton said team members were all in agreement that the new element should be named for the Volunteer State.

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Associated Press Writer Malcolm Ritter in New York contributed to this report.

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