Sunday, May 05, 2013

A home made periodic table

One of my slow burn projects has been to make and display a periodic table of elements using element samples that I have been able to find or make myself. This is what it currently looks like:

The poster itself is actually a blown up version of the poster that comes with the quirky book Wonderful Life with the Elements: The Periodic Table Personified by Bunpei Yorifuji. Each element is represented by a person (or robot) and characteristics of the person reflect the element itself (such as its state at 'room temperature', its radioactivity, and when it was discovered).

Having got the poster enlarged I had a custom frame made using the cheapest online source I could find. To store each element I'm using 1/2 dram clear glass vials with black polypropylene caps that are lined with polyvinyl. This vial are very small (they are pictured here with my international object sizing tool) so that the overall periodic table is not too large.

It is possible to buy samples of the elements quite easily, but I wanted to obtain them from the world around me for the fun of learning more about them and to be cheap.

I extracted nitrogen from a can of Illy coffee where it is used to pack the coffee, hydrogen came by reacting a little NaOH with Al, oxygen via electrolysis of water, tungsten from a broken halogen light bulb, iron fillings I had lying around, lead came from my roof, copper from wire I had, germanium from an old diode, etc.

It's rather slow to build the table like this, but the original motivation came from reading Oliver Sacks' Uncle Tungsten and a desire to learn more about the elements themselves. For example, even simple old iron has lots of interesting things to know about such as its allotropes and the Curie temperature.

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