• Why Is the Periodic Table Important?

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Why Is the Periodic Table Important?

Oct 04 2019

The periodic table has come a long way since Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev first drew up the original sketches in 1869. While plenty has changed over the past 150 years, including the addition of new elements such as Nihonium (Nh), Moscovium (Mc), Tennessine (Ts) and Oganesson (Og) in 2016, the underlying concept of the periodic table retains its relevance and importance.

Mendeleev designed the periodic table as a way of systematically categorising elements according to atomic number, electron configuration and recurring chemical properties. This allows for the identification of elemental characteristics simply by analysing its position on the table.

Identifying patterns and predicting reactions

In fact, the periodic table is so accurate that it allows scientists to predict the chemical and physical properties of elements that hadn't yet been discovered. In laboratories, the periodic table plays an important role in helping scientists anticipate the types of chemical reactions that could occur and balance equations accordingly. This is done by analysing characteristics such as reactivity, pliability and the capacity to conduct electricity and likelihood of combining with non-metals.

"The elements, if arranged according to their atomic weights, exhibit an apparent periodicity of properties," said Mendeleev.

Pioneering periodic law

Elements aligned in the same column share similar properties and are known as groups. Elements that share the same row are known as periods and have the same highest unexcited electron energy levels. The periodic table also reveals information on the atomic number and weight of an element, as well as the usual charge. All this information, and more, is packed into one universal, easy-to-use reference table that graces the walls of classrooms and laboratories around the world.

"Before the promulgation of the periodic law the chemical elements were mere fragmentary incidental facts in nature; there was no special reason to expect the discovery of new elements, and the new ones which were discovered from time to time appeared to be possessed of quite novel properties," said Mendeleev.

"The law of periodicity first enabled us to perceive undiscovered elements at a distance which formerly were inaccessible to chemical vision, and long ere they were discovered new elements appeared before our eyes possessed of a number of well-defined properties," he adds.

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