Focus |

The periodic table

The United Nations have proclaimed 2019 to be the International Year of the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements (IYPT 2019) to mark the 150th anniversary of the classification system that decorates chemistry classrooms and labs around the world. Since its inception in 1869, the periodic table has evolved significantly as the number of known elements has increased, along with our understanding of them. We celebrate the periodic system in this Focus with a collection of articles that explore elements of the table, including its limits.

Content

As the International Year of the Periodic Table draws to an end, we reflect on how it has prompted chemists to explore the past, present and future of this chemical icon.

Editorial | | Nature Chemistry

Jadambaa Khuyagbaatar from the Helmholtz Institute Mainz and the GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research talks to Nature Chemistry about superheavy element studies and why creating and exploring these fleeting nuclei matters.

Q&A | | Nature Chemistry

The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry — whose 100th anniversary fittingly falls during the International Year of the Periodic Table — is most recognized for its role in the naming of new elements. This is part of a wider effort to help create a common chemistry language for humans and machines alike.

Comment | | Nature Chemistry

M. Pilar Gil and Eli Zysman-Colman look back at the history of two periodic tables that date from the late nineteenth century.

Thesis | | Nature Chemistry

The contributions of women to the development of the periodic table have long been overlooked. Claire Murray relates how the recent ‘Setting their table’ conference set out to highlight their prominent role in element discovery and use.

Meeting Report | | Nature Chemistry

The periodic table is immensely powerful for rationalizing many different properties of the chemical elements, but would turning it on its head make some important aspects easier to understand and give everyone a new perspective on chemistry?

Comment | | Nature Chemistry

The elements of the periodic table are more integral to our daily lives now than they have ever been before. Bruce C. Gibb takes a look at the factors used to decide just how critical the supply of any given mineral is.

Thesis | | Nature Chemistry

The United Nations has declared 2019 to be the International Year of the Periodic Table to coincide with this iconic chemical chart turning 150 years old. We join in with the celebrations by publishing a collection of articles that explore the edges of the periodic system and look at some of the elements that do — and don’t — make up the table.

Editorial | | Nature Chemistry

At its inception, the periodic table sorted elements by weight, so it may be surprising that the heaviest natural element on Earth remains controversial, or at best, nebulous. In the strange, perhaps-unfinished search for this weightiest nucleus, the only definitive conclusion is that it lies somewhere beyond uranium.

Comment | | Nature Chemistry

The periodic table as we know it now seems complete, its current 118 elements nicely fitting in the seven familiar rows. How many more can be synthesized — and how will the table expand to accommodate them? The search for ever-heavier elements is pointing towards new periods, though perhaps not as neatly ordered as the first seven.

Comment | | Nature Chemistry

Scientists and non-scientists alike have long been dreaming of elements with mighty properties. Perhaps the fictional materials they have conjured up are not as far from reality as it may at first seem.

Comment | | Nature Chemistry

From the archives

There are many different versions of the periodic table, but one among them reigns supreme. Michelle Francl ponders on why chemists put elements in boxes.

Thesis | | Nature Chemistry

Of all the things humans can bestow names upon, new chemical elements are about the rarest. Our group of periodic table experts attempts to read the tea leaves and predict the names for elements 113, 115, 117 and 118.

Commentary | | Nature Chemistry

When elements 117 and 118 are finally named, should these new members of the halogen and noble gas families receive names ending in -ium as IUPAC has suggested? Brett F. Thornton and Shawn C. Burdette look at the history of element suffixes and make the case for not following this recommendation.

Thesis | | Nature Chemistry

A century ago this month, Frederick Soddy described and named isotopes in the pages of Nature. Brett F. Thornton and Shawn C. Burdette discuss how chemists have viewed and used isotopes since then — either as chemically identical or chemically distinct species as the need required and technology allowed.

Thesis | | Nature Chemistry

Can philosophy make worthwhile contributions to science? Eric Scerri thinks it can, and looks at what it has brought to the table for chemistry.

Thesis | | Nature Chemistry

Diamonds may be forever, but are some other forms of carbon merely passing fads? Stuart Cantrill considers why carbon often seems to be a chemist's best friend.

Thesis | | Nature Chemistry

Around the table

To celebrate the centenary of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry in July 2019, the 47th IUPAC World Chemistry Congress took place in Paris. Its programme reflected how chemistry can help to address today and tomorrow’s most challenging issues, in particular, those relevant to human well-being and sustainable development.

Meeting Report | | Nature Chemistry

Carl Wilhelm Scheele had a hand in the discovery of at least six elements and contributed to the early development of chemistry in numerous other ways. Bruce Gibb looks into Scheele's story and considers why he doesn't get the credit that he deserves.

Thesis | | Nature Chemistry

They might not be fundamental constants of nature, but atomic weights are one of the foundations on which modern chemistry is built, explains Juris Meija.

Thesis | | Nature Chemistry

Interactive periodic table

2019 is the International Year of the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements, marking 150 years since Dmitri Mendeleev ordered the elements into a table as we know it today. Our Nature Research periodic table features editors’ picks from 150 years of original research published in Nature and the Nature Research journals, commentaries and multimedia for elements 1 through 118.

Milestones |