Science at home: a new look at the Periodic Table

The United Nations declared 2019 the International Year of the Periodic Table.

It’s been 150 years since the Table was first suggested by Dmitri Mendeleev as a way to list all the known elements.

Have you ever tried to deal with several different pieces of information?  It can get very complicated, very quickly.  Tables are a fast and effective way to organise data across all disciplines.

There are 118 elements that we currently know about, so we need a simple method of organising them!

The periodic table is such a bizarre shape because of the way atoms are structured.  The configuration of electrons orbiting the atom is unique to each element, and that determines where they sit on the table.  This also means that elements with similar properties are grouped together – like the Noble Gases down the right-hand side, which are all unreactive gases, or the colourful Transition metals that sit in the centre.

If you’re studying chemistry in Year 11 or 12, you might already know this!  Chemistry students and researchers of all levels continue to find the table useful in just about every aspect of chemistry.  It’s somewhere between a map and a very useful infographic.

Here are some of our favourite periodic tables: these are both interactive tables with extra information, this is a photographic representation, and this table has an artwork inspired by each element.

Fun fact: four of the elements on the periodic table (Yttrium, Ytterbium, Terbium and Erbium) are all named after the same tiny village (Ytterby, in Switzerland, where they were all first found).

Posted in