The European Chemical Society has unveiled a new periodic table in order to raise awareness on element scarcity.
During an event held on Tuesday, Jan. 22, the organization presented the new table that depicts the elements that are disappearing due to various causes. The effort was part of the celebration of the periodic table's 150th anniversary.
The Disappearing Elements Of The Periodic Table
Right now, the periodic table has 118 known elements, 90 of which occur in nature. The rest are super-heavy substances that were manufactured in laboratories.
However, as many natural resources on the planet are depleting, the organization wanted to highlight the problem and campaign for sustainable development.
The new periodic table, which reflects the disappearing elements, are color-coded: red means it is vulnerable of disappearing forever, orange means rising threat from increased use, yellow means limited availability, and green means there is still plenty of supply.
"Some of these elements, we have less than a hundred years before it's much more difficult to get hold of them," stated David Cole-Hamilton, the vice president of the European Chemical Society.
Helium (He), silver (Ag), tellurium (Te), gallium (Ga), germanium (Ge), strontium (Sr), yttrium (Y), zinc (Zn), indium (In), arsenic (As), hafnium (Hf), and tantalum (Ta) are among the elements that are in danger of disappearing in 100 years or less.
Helium, in particular, is disappearing fast. The element is widely used in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners, deep sea diving, and party balloons.
While MRI scanners and deep sea divers recycle helium, party balloons pop and release the element into the air. According to Cole-Hamilton, helium is very light and very stable. It can float to the edge of Earth and disappear into outer space forever.
"The amount of helium at the moment is very low," he warned, "reserves are probably only enough for about 10 years."
The organization also took some liberty and added a mark for the elements that are used to create smartphones. Out of the 90, 31 elements had the smartphone mark. Five of them are tagged as vulnerable and might disappear in 100 years.
Pushing For Sustainable Development
The organization hopes that the new periodic table will urge the public to recognize the lifespan of elements and to support better recycling practices. In the European Union alone, the European Chemical Society revealed that 10 million smartphones are discarded every year. Because of this, around 30 elements used to manufacture smartphones are facing increasing scarcity due to limited supplies, especially that they can only be sourced in conflict areas.