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Are there elements yet to be discovered?
Question Date: 2013-04-01
Answer 1:

Thank you for a great question! I will begin with a quick review of what a chemical element actually is. A chemical element is a pure substance that is composed of only one type of atom. Atoms are made of protons (positive charge) and neutrons (no charge) in the center (nucleus) surrounded by electrons (negative charge). Each element is sorted by the number of protons present. Ions are atoms with a different number of electrons than protons. Isotopes are atoms with a different number of neutrons.

Now that we have that sorted, the short answer to your question: No! We have discovered all the elements that we think are possible to exist based on the latest experimental data. The problem comes when we try to make these elements in a laboratory.

"As of November 2011, 118 elements have been identified, the latest being ununseptium in 2010. Of the 118 known elements, only the first 98 are known to occur naturally on Earth; 80 of them are stable, while the others are radioactive, decaying into lighter elements over various timescales from fractions of a second to billions of years." Source:

chemical element

Most of the high-atomic number (atomic number is the same as the number of protons) elements are not very stable, and break down into lighter elements that we know a lot about. We use this fact to design and build nuclear power plants, which harness energy stored in these elements.

Just recently we have shown evidence for elements 113, 114, 116, and 117. Here are a few articles I found that talk about their discovery:

elusive element 113
two new elements
new element 117 discovered

To summarize:
1. We know which elements we are looking for because anything with more than 118 protons is highly unstable.(that is, it breaks down into lighter elements right away)
2. There is still a lot of research happening with isotopes and ions, even though the atoms have already been discovered.
3. Even though we have discovered some elements, there are plenty that have only existed in a laboratory because they are not naturally stable. Thank you so much for your question! Please share your knowledge with anyone who is interested!

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