The International Year of the Periodic Table comes to an end

The year that is coming to a close has been incredibly important for those of us that form part of the chemical sector.

The truth is that 2019 has elevated chemistry to the position it deserves thanks to the United Nations initiative to celebrate the International Year of the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements.

In that vein, the Barcelonesa blog took the opportunity to explain the importance of chemistry in daily life, with a focus on the most important elements of the periodic table, given that a large number of people are unaware of how necessary chemistry is to everyday life.

Perhaps that’s the main reason why false myths regarding chemistry abound and why so many people believe them.

As the hours count down towards the end of this unforgettable International Year of the Periodic Table, we want to take advantage of the closing of this important event to draw some conclusions. 

150 years of the periodic table

The need to organise and standardise the known chemical elements into a table became increasingly evident as more and more elements were discovered.

Despite the Periodic Table being exclusively attributed to the Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev, it wasn’t spontaneously created nor was it the work of a single “enlightened” scientist or visionary.

On the contrary, the Periodic Table emerged as part of a process that began to develop in the middle of the 19th century with the notable work on classifying chemicals carried out by Newlands, Odling, Meyer, and Chancourtois

The first version of the table was presented by Mendeleev in 1869 (150 years ago).

Nevertheless, the initial columns and rows weren’t quite accurate, as the Russian thought the elements should be listed in increasing order according to their atomic weights.

Despite the fact that the logical order of the time, based on chemical properties, wasn’t related to the atomic weights of each element, those inconsistencies facilitated the discovery of new chemical elements that were subsequently added to the table.

The periodic table currently contains 118 elements that are categorised into 18 different groups.

Why do we celebrate the International Year of the Periodic Table?

The importance of the Periodic Table is fundamental to our sector.

What’s more, it is also used daily by chemists, physicists, archaeologists, chemical engineers, geologists, biologists, and so on.

Many people consider the standardisation of the Periodic Table to be one of the most significant scientific achievements to date as it has become the foundation for the expansion of human knowledge and current technological development. 

According to the United Nations General Assembly, chemistry has contributed to improving the quality of everyday life, particularly in developing countries.

The importance of chemistry to daily life

Throughout 2019 on the Barcelonesa blog we’ve explained how chemical elements have improved humanity’s quality of life.

Out of the most prominent elements, we’ve highlighted the following:

  • Silicon: an essential chemical element given that its capacity to conduct electricity has been integrated into the microchips used by most electronic devices.
  • Aluminium: a lightweight yet robust metal that is used in all kinds of industries, including aeronautics, aerospace, and automotive.
  • Calcium: a highly abundant element with varied industrial applications. When combined with other elements, it is used to manufacture building materials such as cement or mortar.
  • Sulphur: sulphur has been used since ancient times for multiple agricultural applications (fungicides, plant nutrition, acaricides, etc.), tyre manufacturing, animal food, pyrotechnics, and more.
  • Magnesium: because it is lightweight and ductile, it is used at a structural level in construction, the manufacture of containers, and for automotive components.
  • Boron: boron is essential to nuclear plants for reactivity control, in addition to being used in glass and ceramic manufacturing or for agricultural plant nutrition.
  • Phosphorus: although a large part of the phosphorus found on Earth is used as a fertiliser for agricultural crops, it is also used as a nutrient in the food industry or as an ingredient in carbonated beverages such as Coca-Cola.
  • Lithium: lithium use in batteries for electric and electronic devices is unavoidable. For that very reason lithium is one of the chemical elements that is most associated with modern technology.
  • Chlorine: anyone who has ever bathed in a swimming pool did so without running the risk of contracting an illness thanks to chlorine. Its excellent disinfectant ability not only allows us to use swimming pools, but also enables potable water to be filtered prior to consumption. Chlorine can also be used as a textile dye, for bleaching paper pulp, or for manufacturing PVC.
  • Oxygen: oxygen is a chemical that is essential to life and is used in diverse sectors such as metallurgy, chemistry, and medicine.
  • Potassium: a chemical element that is essential to ensuring the survival of humans (it is essential to our diet). Potassium is used in agricultural chemistry to manufacture fertilisers and in food products to increase flour density.
  • Carbon: found in diamonds, graphite, and coal, its use it closely linked to jewellery, pencil manufacturing, and hydrocarbon processing.