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A colourful wall chart showing the 118 elements of the periodic table of chemical elements. The image shows the periods and rows and how the elements are related.

What Is The Periodic Table of Chemical Elements?

What Is The Periodic Table of Chemical Elements?

What is the Periodic Table?

The periodic table, also known as the periodic table of elements and the periodic table of chemical elements, is a clever visual representation of all the known chemical elements. The periodic table stands as one of the most iconic and indispensable tools in the realm of chemistry, it’s organised arrangement of elements provides scientists with invaluable insights into the properties and behaviours of the different elements.

Who Created The Periodic Table & What Purpose Does It Serve?

In 1869, a Russian chemist named Dmitri Mendeleev, conducted an extensive range of experiments using the known elements and achieved the monumental feat of organising these known elements into a systematic framework. His creation, known as the periodic table, revolutionized the study of chemistry and laid the groundwork for our modern understanding of the elements.

Mendeleev's original periodic table comprised 63 elements, arranged by increasing atomic mass. This table served as a blueprint for understanding the relationships between different elements and predicting the properties of undiscovered elements. Some of the elements detailed in Mendeleev's table include hydrogen, oxygen, iron, and gold, among others.

Structure of the Periodic Table

The periodic table is structured into rows and columns, each serving a distinct purpose in organising the elements. Rows, known as periods, indicate the number of electron shells present in the atoms of the elements. Columns, known as groups or families, denote elements with similar chemical properties and shared characteristics.

Key Groups in the Periodic Table

  1. Alkali Metals (Group 1): These highly reactive metals include lithium, sodium, and potassium. They are known for their tendency to form alkaline solutions when reacting with water.
  2. Alkaline Earth Metals (Group 2): Metals such as magnesium, calcium, and barium belong to this group. They are less reactive than alkali metals but still exhibit notable chemical activity.
  3. Transition Metals: Found in Groups 3 to 12, transition metals are characterized by their variable oxidation states and ability to form colorful compounds. Examples include iron, copper, and zinc.
  4. Halogens (Group 17): Comprising elements such as fluorine, chlorine, and iodine, halogens are highly reactive nonmetals that readily form salts with metals.
  5. Noble Gases (Group 18): These inert gases, including helium, neon, and argon, have complete electron shells and exhibit minimal reactivity under normal conditions.

What is An Atom?

Atoms are the individual building blocks of all elements, an element is composed of atoms. An atom consists of a nucleus composed of protons and neutrons, surrounded by a cloud of electrons which move in orbitals. Protons carry a positive charge, neutrons are electrically neutral, and electrons bear a negative charge. The number of protons in an atom determines its atomic number, which uniquely identifies the element.

What is Atomic Mass?

The Atomic mass (ma) is simply the average mass of an atom and is expressed in units of  kilograms (Kg) or Daltons (Da). Atomic mass is expressed as a multiple of one-twelfth the mass of the carbon-12 atom, 1.992646547 × 10−23 gram, which is assigned an atomic mass of 12 units

What are Isotopes?

 Isotopes are variants of an element that have the same number of protons but different numbers of neutrons. This results in isotopes having slightly different atomic masses. For instance, carbon-12 and carbon-14 are isotopes of carbon, with atomic masses of approximately 12 and 14 atomic mass units, respectively.

The periodic table is such an important means of cataloguing and illustrating the elements and offers a structured framework for understanding the elements and their properties. From Mendeleev's ground breaking design to its evolution into the comprehensive tool we use today, the periodic table continues to inspire curiosity and exploration in the fascinating world of chemistry.

Why Are Science Experiments Important?

As with all fields of science, experimentation is the way we learn best, whether that experimentation takes place in sophisticated modern laboratories equipped with the latest state of the art scientific equipment, or via science enthusiasts conducting simple experiments with common elements, we can unlock the wonders of chemistry and deepen our appreciation for the intricate beauty of the natural world. So next time you encounter the periodic table, remember the centuries of discovery and innovation that have shaped our understanding of the elements within, and in the meantime here are some experiments you can do at home with some common elements from the periodic table.

Please remember to take all necessary safety precautions, these experiments are unsuitable for unsupervised children.

  1. Clean a penny with vinegar: Explore the concept of chemical reactions and corrosion using vinegar (acetic acid) and pennies (made of copper). Place dirty or tarnished pennies in a shallow dish and cover them with vinegar. Let them soak for a few minutes, then gently scrub them with a toothbrush. The vinegar reacts with the copper oxide on the pennies' surface, dissolving it and revealing the shiny copper underneath.
  2. Electrolysis of Water: Use a 9-volt battery and two graphite pencils as electrodes. Submerge the pencils in water containing a pinch of salt and witness the electrolysis process, which generates hydrogen and oxygen gases.
  3. Baking Soda and Vinegar Reaction: Combine baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) with vinegar (acetic acid) to observe the release of carbon dioxide gas, resulting in fizzing and bubbling.
  4. Copper Plating: Set up a simple electroplating experiment using copper wire and a copper sulfate solution. Connect the wire to a battery and immerse it in the solution to observe copper ions being deposited onto the wire.
  5. Growing Crystals with Epsom Salt: Dissolve epsom salt in hot water until no more salt will dissolve (creating a supersaturated solution). Pour the solution into a clean glass jar and suspend a string or pipe cleaner in the liquid, allowing it to hang undisturbed. As the solution cools, epsom salt crystals will form on the string or pipe cleaner over the course of a few days.

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