MadSci Network: Chemistry

Re: How do you use the periodic table in everyday life?

Date: Wed Oct 22 17:59:10 2003
Posted By: Harry Adam, Research Associate
Area of science: Chemistry
ID: 1066411707.Ch

Travis – thanks for the question about how the periodic table comes into regular use.

As a chemist, I get involved in formulations a lot, and in trying to understand their behaviour in a given application. To understand chemical behaviours, I am sure you already know, it is important to understand the relationship between the numbers of molecules in reactions. As reactions take place at a molecular level, we need to know about such quantities as concentrations of molecules to understand such phenomena as rates of reactions, equilibria and so forth.

To do this, the periodic table is where I immediately turn, as a reference place to calculate molecular concentrations. Molecular weight is the sum of the atomic weights of the constituent atoms of the molecule, so knowing the molecular structure, all I need is the periodic table to do the calculation. One is pinned to the wall right by my desk in my office. Frankly that rather mundane use is the one I use the periodic table for most, but I also sometimes have occasion to use it to help me chose alternative substances for some applications. Chemical behaviours are related to position of elements in the periodic table, and that knowledge combined with other information is often useful in suggesting alternative choices when looking for reagents with specific properties.

Finally, it’s actually a nice piece of art to have on the wall. I find it a very elegant and simple representation of the building blocks of all matter. Occasionally I find myself staring at it in wonder.

Typing periodic table into Google yields lots of good and useful sites one of which is - where you will find an amazing statistic – on average over 35000 people use the site every day. The periodic table must be one of the worlds most frequently used reference tables – if not the most frequently used. Here’s a challenge – find one that’s used more frequently!

Thanks again for your question.

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