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Spiral Periodic Tables


Hackh 1.

spiral_Gardner 2.
Moran 3.
Benfey 4.
elementree 5.

Hinsdale Bernard PT 6.

As James Elkins says in his book How to Use Your Eyes, the standard periodic table ’..serves many purposes well, but is also full of drawbacks. Just looking at it, you can see that it has an unsatisfying lack of symmetry. There is a big gap at the top, as if a chunk had been taken out of it. And at the bottom there are two extra strips of elements that could not be fitted onto the table.’

This initial observation was probably the first reaction of many students, and certainly by all of us periodic table re-designers when first confronted by this icon of chemistry.

We wanted to fix it... but there were rules we had to follow, and it got complicated. there are X number of elements. There are periods. there are groups. There are numbers. There are also properties and lots of complex chemical inter-relationships. Some re-designers ignored these latter aspects, and some (more educated in the science) based their idea on one or more aspect of Them.

I, and apparently a number of others, were also deeply disturbed by discontinuities in the string of elements proposed by Mendeleev; "...if all the elements be arranged in order of their atomic weights a periodic repetition of properties is obtained." We saw over a dozen breaks in the standard arrangement easily remedied - by making the sequence a spiral.

The spiral reoccurs in many alternative periodic tables.

A periodic spiral of elements envisions a remedy to the flaws in conventional periodic tables by illustrating hydrogen's ambiguous relationship to the noble gases and halogens while recognizing its relationship to the alkali metals; it also fully integrates the lanthanons and actinons into the design.

On the left, in Edgar Longman’s elliptical chart (fig.2) – and a similar recent Philip Gardner Chemical Galaxy , the elements spiral out in a similar way to the much earlier – 1914 – drawing of Ingo W. D. Hackh’s concept (fig.1). These progress smoothly along curving lines, but, due to the additional length of periods as shells are added, Hackh’s chart has increased separation between loops of the spiral. Longman’s and less so Gardner’s – identifies the group relationships, but the regularity of an oval forces a gap of elements (as in the standard chart) inside the Rare Earths.

This problem, inherent in most flat representations, including the Moran chart (fig.3) (illustrating hydrogen's ambiguous relationship to the noble gases and halogens while recognizing its relationship to the alkali metals), was overcome by Theodor Benfey’s periodic table (1960), where the elements spiral out in two dimensions starting from hydrogen folding their way around two islands, the transition metals & lanthanides and actinides. Looking to the future, Benfey has already slotted in a superactinide island!.

In figure 4, the creative Fernando DuFour, for whom "A third dimension [for the periodic table] is not an option but a necessity", has developed ElemenTree (among a number of other alternative versions). Scientifically illuminating (I suppose) it maintains the horizontal and vertical symmetry inherent in the periodic table to relate the electron configurations of the elements to their chemical and physical properties in a construct where the spiral basis is less than obvious.

Hinsdale Bernard recently patented a similar form, but here, the slide down from one period to the next is clearly seen in figure 6 .

At the right, in figures 7 and 8, are shown reconstructions of the original periodic table (also a spiral), by Alexandre-Emile Béguyer de Chancourtois. It is on a 3-D tube, and is the first periodic table. Mendeleev, and others who followed, worked and published principally on paper, hence the popularity of the flat chart - with all its inherent problems.

The flat chart of de Chancourtois’ arrangement - necessary for wide distribution - is a series of diagonals, but returns to a spiral in figure 8, illustrating how the understanding is improved when re-formed into a 3-D spiral. De Chancourtois’ work of creative genius was simpler then, as fewer elements had been identified.

In figure 9 are the Alexander Arrangement of Elements, conceived in 1965. The author of this text (and website) patented this 3-D periodic table in 1971 for a better introduction to chemistry in museums and middle & high schools, and it is exceptionally applicable to the various ways children think and learn.

The spiral aspect is in the main part of the table, reflecting de Chancourtois’s, line of elements dropping gradually from one period to the next. As the face is vertical, almost all the element boxes can approximate the same size, and also relate to those above and below - columns, triads, diads, and the like. The longer H box of the shorter period loop at the beginning also serves to illustrate the multiple relationships of element #1, Hydrogen (fig.10). The longer periods integrate readily by having an element series looped out from the core column, starting and ending "in order".

The construction of a 3-D model, an interactive and kinesthetic activity, has the students physically handle specific segments of the table, form them into physical objects occupying space (just as elements do), and deliberately place them in their correct locations relative to all the other parts, helping them to learn the names of the segments and see how obvious and logical the periods are.

Telluric Screw in Box

Alexander Arrangement

Alexander Arrangement

Spiral Periodic Tables

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Democritus,  Periodic Table Basis,  Patenting,   Element Groups,  Mendeleev,  Element Symbols,  Spiral Models, de Chancourtois,  hydrogen,  Noble Gases,  neon,  Niels Bohr,  Theodore Gray,  Rare Earths, krypton,  Glenn Seaborg,  xenon,  Alexander Arrangement of Elements,  Eric Scerri,  Fernando Dufour,  Other Inventors

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