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What is the Periodic Table?

Dimitri Mendeleev

"Dimitri Mendeleev"

What is the Periodic Table?
What is the Periodic Table? The Periodic Table Chart provides an interactive example of the table. It is just a large grid that fits into a chart which provides facts and information about all of the elements - at a glance. As many of the elements, such as Magnesium and Californium have such long names they are abbreviated by using symbols for each of the elements. Learn to recognise the symbols of the elements and you will start to discover the answer to the question "What is the Periodic Table"? Watch the following video which provides a simple guide to learning about the Periodic Table.

What is the Periodic Table? The Symbols of the Elements
The majority of the symbols used in the Periodic table are easy to understand, they are just an abbreviation of the name such H for hydrogen, O for Oxygen, Ar for Argon, Br for Bromine etc etc.

The first letter of the Periodic symbols is always a capital letter. If there is a second or third letter in the symbol it always in lower case. However, some of the symbols are taken for Latin, Greek or German names so are not readily identified. There are only ten elements that have such symbols.

  • Sb: Antimony : Sb - From the Greek words 'anti' and 'monos' meaning "opposed to solitude".

  • Cu: Copper : Cu - From the Latin word 'cyprium', after the island of Cyprus.

  • Au: Gold : Au - From the Latin word 'aurum' meaning gold.

  • Fe: Iron : Fe - From the Latin word 'ferrum' meaning iron.

  • Pb: Lead : Pb - From the Latin word 'plumbum' meaning lead.

  • Hg : Mercury: Hg - From the Greek word 'hydrargyros' meaning 'water' and 'silver'.

  • K: Potassium : K - From the Medieval Latin word 'kalium' meaning potash (pot ashes).

  • Ag: Silver: Ag - From the Latin word 'argentum' meaning silver

  • Sn: Tin : Sn - From the Latin word 'stannum' meaning tin

  • W: Tungsten:W - From the German word 'Wolfram'. Ancient alchemists called the metal "spuma lupi," the Latin words for  'wolf foam' which was translated to the word "wolframite" with reference to the unpleasant substance formed during the smelting of tin ores containing tungsten

What is the Periodic Table? Who invented the Periodic Table?
Dimitri Mendeleev was the Russian chemist and author of the first periodic table. The modern Periodic table is based on his findings and theories in Periodic Chemistry. The Periodic Table is used by chemists to observe the chemical and physical properties, characteristics, patterns and relationships between over 100 elements in just one chart.  An Element is a substance composed of atoms with the same atomic number. A chemical element contains only one type of atom. An element can be a gas, a liquid or a solid. The elements are placed in specific places on the Periodic Table because of the way they look and act. The Periodic Law states that the properties of elements are periodic functions of their atomic weights.

What is the Periodic Table? - Atomic Numbers
Each Chemical element on the Periodic table is given a unique Atomic Number. The atomic number of an element is the same as the number of Protons and Electrons in that particular atom. Across the Periodic table the elements are placed in the order of their atomic numbers starting with the lowest number of 1 which is the atomic number for hydrogen. The atomic number is the number of protons in the atom. When arranged according to atomic number, elements show repeating, or periodic trends in their chemical and physical properties.

What is the Periodic Table? - The Rows (PERIODS) and Columns (GROUPS)
Elements in the periodic table are arranged in rows called PERIODS and columns called GROUPS.

  • Column (called a GROUP)
    • The 18 Groups in the Periodic Table are any of the vertical columns that contain elements arranged in order of increasing atomic number
    • The Atomic number increases as you move down a column (GROUP)
    • Elements with similar properties are arranged in the same column (GROUP)
  • Row (called a PERIOD)
    • The Periods in the Periodic Table are any of the 7 horizontal rows that contain elements arranged in order of increasing atomic number
    • The Atomic number increases as you move across a period (row)
    • Each period (row) starts with Alkali metal and ends with a Noble gas
    • The first element of each period (row) is most reactive (electropositive) and last element is chemically inert

What is the Periodic Table? - Groups in the Periodic Table
The elements shown on the Periodic Table are Gas, Liquid or Solid and are classified into Periodic Table Groups. Properties within each individual group are similar, but nevertheless vary within a group. The elements displayed are Gas, Liquid or Solid and are classified in groups called:

  • Metalloids
  • Alkali Metals
  • Alkaline Earth Metals
  • Transition Metals
  • Other Metals
  • Non-metals
  • Halogens
  • Noble Gases
  • Rare Earth Elements
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