Are There Any Undiscovered Elements?

Is the Periodic Table Complete or What?

Lab technician working at a microscope.


Elements are the basic identifiable forms of matter. Have you ever wondered if there are any undiscovered elements or how scientists find new elements?

Are There Any Undiscovered Elements?

Although there are elements we have not yet created or found in nature, scientists already know what they will be and can predict their properties. For example, element 125 has not been observed, but when it is, it will appear in a new row of the periodic table as a transition metal. Its location and properties can be predicted because the periodic table organizes elements according to increasing atomic number. Thus, there are no true holes in the periodic table.

Contrast this with Mendeleev's original periodic table, which organized elements according to increasing atomic weight. At that time, the structure of the atom was not as well-understood. There were true holes in the table since elements weren't defined as clearly as they are now.

When elements of higher atomic number (more protons) are observed, it's often not the element itself that is seen, but rather a decay product. Superheavy elements tend to be highly unstable. In that respect, even new elements aren't always directly discovered. In some cases, insufficient amounts of the elements have been synthesized for us to know what the element looks like. Yet, the elements are considered to be known, are named, and are listed on the periodic table. There will be new elements added to the periodic table, but where they will be placed on the table is already known. For example, there won't be any new elements between hydrogen and helium or seaborgium and bohrium.