90 Elements that make up everything

International Year of the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements

It is an astonishing thought that everything we see around us is made up of different combinations of just 90 building blocks – the 90 naturally occurring chemical elements.

Although elemental gold was used by the Egyptians at least 5000 years ago, it was not until the 1860’s that the then known elements started to be classified by their properties and weights. Patterns began to emerge starting with Johann Wolfgang Döbereiner’s Law of Triads (1829), Alexandre-Émile Béguyer de Chancourtois arranging the elements in a helix and seeing patterns (1862), John Alexander Reina Newlands’s Law of Octaves (1862), Julius Lothar Meyer’s table based on valency and atomic number (1864, publ. 1869) and Dmitri Mendeleev’s The correlation of properties with the atomic weights of elements (1869), which included all 63 known elements and predicted the existences of several others. This version is now usually recognised as the precursor of the Periodic Tables we use today.

Since 2019 will be the 150th anniversary of Mendeleev’s publication, UNESCO has proclaimed 2019 as The International Year of the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements (IYPT).

Pilar Goya, President of EuChemS, will write about how EuChemS will celebrate the IYPT in the first issue of Chemistry in Europe for 2019, but we would like to introduce a new version of the Periodic Table, which EuChemS has designed to celebrate the IYPT. It is hoped that this table, which looks very different from standard tables, but has a powerful message, will hang in as many schools in Europe as possible alongside a standard Periodic Table.

The Table shown in the Figure highlights the amount of each element available (area on a log scale) and the vulnerability (colours). In addition, a symbol shows the elements that are used in a smartphone.

The idea is to highlight how precious many of these elements are and how, if we continue to use them in the way we currently do, they will be dispersed in such a way that they cannot be easily won back, and we shall no longer be able to use them. Of course, they do not leave the planet – it is just that their distribution becomes very widespread at levels low enough to make recovery uneconomical. In the one case of helium (He) however, once it is released into the atmosphere it floats into outer space and is lost forever.

The message is that we should do all we can to protect, recycle and preserve these elements as well as working to find alternatives made from abundant elements to replace elements that are threatened because of high use and/or low availability. In the case of elements in smartphones, which are used as a single example of many applications in electronics, until we find alternatives to replace the vulnerable elements, everyone should consider whether they can keep their phone longer rather than replace it after a short time. Currently about 10 million smart phones are replaced every month in Europe alone.

The Periodic Table is now available for download on the EuChemS website at: where versions in different languages are also now available!

Video Game

Look out for an exciting new video game about the Periodic Table, which will be available around 22nd January at where more information about the Periodic Table can be found.

 David Cole-Hamilton

2018 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Very warm congratulations to Frances Arnold, George P Smith and Gregory Winter on being awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their discoveries in enzyme research – studies which are already impacting medicine and the role of antibodies in neutralising toxins, counteracting autoimmune diseases and treating metastatic cancer.

Professor Frances Arnold is the fifth woman to win the Chemistry Nobel Prize, and we were very glad to have her speak at the EuChemS Chemistry Congress 2018 in Liverpool. You can watch the recent interview with her here:

Launch of a MOOC on Good Chemistry

A course entitled “Good Chemistry – Methodological, Ethical, and Social Dimensions” has been conceptualised and realised by a EuChemS task force consisting of members of the EuChemS Division of Chemistry and Education (DivCEd), the European Chemistry Thematic Network (ECTN), the EuChemS Working Party on Ethics in Chemistry (WP EiC), and the EuChemS secretariat and Executive Board.

The undertaken efforts are the response to a growing demand for educational material on matters of research ethics and science ethics. It has been concluded from insights collected in recent years that such a course should not only cover aspects of good scientific practice (or negatively: scientific misconduct), but also address societal and environmental impact, dual-use problems, sustainability, and science communication. Moreover, the course should start at the methodological level in order to connect the other topics closely to the basics of scientific methods and the historical, philosophical and social roots of scientific inquiry as the core competence of chemists. The course syllabus consists of 16 classes covering various aspects of research methodology, research ethics and social/environmental impact of chemical activity (see Fig.1 for an overview). Each class is structured around a video lecture as its core, and features pre-assessments and warm-up questions, introductory cases with historical or fictional chemistry-related scenarios, reading assignments, interactive discussions and workshops, and quizzes that allow instructors to check the students’ progress. All material is available via an e-learning platform, so that the whole course can be completed online. It is also possible to use the offered material in on-site (face to face) classes or in a mix of learning methods. It has been a central concern of the course creators that universities, faculties and institutes that make use of the offer can be flexible in their selection of classes according to their needs and preferences. This course is recommended for an audience of 2nd year master students or PhD students at the beginning of their own research projects.

The overall objective of this course is to contribute to a more “complete” education of young researchers and scientists as important enactors of progress and influential decision-makers in the future in academia, the private sector (industry), and in public service. It aims to provide them with the skills to reflect on and deal with the major contemporary challenges in society and environment with a higher degree of sustainability.

The course is currently undergoing a period of testing until February 2019, after which it will be fully rolled-out to all those interested. The course can be found online at:

Jan Mehlich
Project Leader EuChemS Online course on Ethics

EuChemS Service and Lecture Award nominations open

We are happy to announce that the call for nominations for the EuChemS Lecture Award and the EuChemS Award for Service are now open!

The Lecture Award aims to reward the major achievements of a junior scientist working in Chemistry in a country with a EuChemS Member Organisation. The winner is awarded a statuette as well as the opportunity to give a lecture at a major EuChemS event, including the EuChemS Chemistry Congresses. Use the form here to submit your nomination! And make sure to read the guidelines. Deadline: 31 December 2018.

The EuChemS Award for Service acknowledges the outstanding commitment with regard to fostering chemistry in Europe and advancing the goals of EuChemS more generally. The nomination must demonstrate service to European Chemistry and/or EuChemS over and above the basic voluntary contribution normally expected. We invite all EuChemS member organisations, Professional Networks, and any individuals to submit their nominations now! Use the online form here to submit your nomination. Deadline: 31 December 2018. 


EuChemS General Assembly 2018

This year´s EuChemS General Assembly, which took place on 25 – 26 August 2018 in Liverpool, UK, discussed many of the upcoming developments and activities to be carried out by EuChemS over the next year: in particular, preparations and ideas for projects and events in celebration of the 2019 International Year of the Periodic Table (IYPT2019); the launch of the EuChemS online course on Chemistry and Ethics; as well as updates on the upcoming 3rd European Employability Survey for Chemists. The latest EuChemS activities on the upcoming EU research framework programme, Horizon Europe were also presented to the General Assembly. The final Position Paper can be accessed here.

Finally, EuChemS is also proud to announce that as of January 2019, the Union of Chemists in Bulgaria will join EuChemS as a new member.

Further presentations are available online here.

The General Assembly, Executive Board, and Professional Networks meeting were kindly hosted by EuChemS Member Society the Royal Society of Chemistry.