While various pre and post models have been developed for Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev’s periodic table, the purpose has always been the same: ordering, locating, and predicting chemical elements that share common properties. Thus, the positions or boxes in this table reveal more information than meets the eye.
The periodic table is present at all levels of academic training, being even an icon of general knowledge. Although it is essential in chemistry, the truth is that it is also important in physics and biology, as well as being a source of study and inspiration for lovers of history and literature.
That is why some of the reasons why the periodic table is important will be listed.
What is the importance of the periodic table?
Different reasons can be given that explain the importance of this scientific tool:
It is the basis of inorganic chemistry
Inorganic chemistry is practically the study of the periodic table. Without it, all the knowledge achieved around this type of matter would collapse. Those who are dedicated to this branch of chemistry, it is essential that they can read and extract all the information that this table offers about the chemical elements beyond carbon and its isotopes.
On the other hand, inorganic chemists must go through all the metals that make up the d and f blocks , as well as group 18 of the noble gases, so they end up familiarizing themselves with all the chemical elements; except perhaps those that are synthetic and highly radioactive.
Sheds light on chemical knowledge
Before the periodic table and the first attempts to order the chemical elements according to their similarities, chemistry was shrouded in an uncertain aura and mysticism.
No one knew precisely how many or what were all the chemical elements that could exist in nature. Thanks to this table it is known today that we have a maximum of 118 elements. What once seemed dark is now clear, understandable and organized.
Allows you to predict the properties of new elements
In its beginnings, the periodic table contained empty spaces, since by then several of the chemical elements had not been discovered.
And it was in fact in the chemical treatment of endless minerals that the missing chemical elements were slowly discovered; for example, gallium, germanium, and scandium. Gallium, being located below aluminum, had to share properties with the latter and form minerals (oxides, sulfides, chlorides, etc.) of the same type.
If element 119 were created, it would necessarily have to be located below the francium, in group 1; and therefore, react or have chemical properties similar to that of the other alkali metals (lithium, sodium, potassium, etc.).
Differentiate and classify chemical elements
In the periodic table it is possible to observe how the elements are classified and arranged in specific areas or groups. For example, nonmetals are oriented to the upper right.
Meanwhile, metals, which make up most of the elements, make up the left side and the center of the table, as well as block f : those two rows located below.
Each group, numbered 1 through 18, defines a family of elements. Those of group 1 are called alkali metals, those of group 2, alkaline earth metals, those of 3, the scandium group, and so on. Some groups have unique names, such as group 16 or oxygen, which is called chalcogens or amphigens.
Stores huge amounts of information
In the periodic tables we can see the oxidation numbers for each element, its ionization energies, its average atomic mass, its electronic configurations, its electronegativities, and the entire set of its periodic properties.
Likewise, in some tables it is even possible to find information about their normal melting and boiling points , as well as the crystalline structures of their solids. In this sense, periodic tables appear more specialized than others, depending on the fields of work and the academic level.
Clarify periodic trends
By following the groups and rows of the periodic table, it is possible to clearly observe how the periodic properties change as we move from one element to another.
For example, the atomic radius decreases along a row, from left to right, but increases as we go down a group. Also, the metallic character increases from top to bottom, and from right to left.
Predict the nature of the compounds that are formed
Compounds are formed when two or more elements react with each other. Depending on their respective positions on the periodic table, it is possible to predict what the chemical nature of this compound in question will be.
For example, if metallic sodium and chlorine gas react, they will give rise to sodium chloride, a salt. This is due to the fact that sodium is a metal, while chlorine is a non-metal, whose differences between their electronegativities are large, thus favoring the formation of an ionic compound.
It is a window into the history of science
Each element has its history and discoverers. Their mere names are reflections either of those who discovered them, of the geographic regions where they were mined in their pure forms, or of the characteristic color of their minerals. For example, helium gas is named precisely because it was identified in the sun .
In the periodic table we see a piece of the life of Antoine Lavoisier, Marie Curie, Carl Willhelm Scheele, Henry Cavendish, Paul Emile Lecog, and many other scientists who contributed to completing the table by discovering new chemical elements.