Have you ever looked at the periodic table of the elements and wondered what all the numbers and symbols mean? If you have, you are not alone. Many people are confused by the complex diagram. This article will explain some of the aspects of the periodic table.
The first and most important factor in the periodic table is the chemical symbols of the elements. These are the letters (beginning in uppercase and ending in lowercase) that are part of each box. They are universal representations of the elements. Some symbols are the first 1-2 letters of the element name, while others seem completely foreign. This is due to the fact that they are derived from the Latin (or other language) name of the element. For example, silver’s chemical symbol “Ag” comes from the Latin name “Argentum”.
Another aspect is the atomic numbers. These numbers advance in numerical order throughout the periodic table beginning with hydrogen (#1). This number represents the number of protons and electrons contained in each atom of the element. The number of protons and electrons has to be the same because the negative and positive charges have to balance each other for the atom to be in its neutral state.
Another piece of information on the periodic table is the atomic mass unit (AMU) number of the atom. An atomic mass unit represents the approximate weight of a proton or neutron. Most AMU numbers will have decimal place values because there are different forms of each element that contain different numbers of neutrons. The AMU number on the periodic table is the average AMU of the element with the abundance of the element on earth figured in.
Another feature of the periodic table is the “staircase” located to the right hand side. This acts as a dividing line for the different types of elements. Everything on the left side of the staircase is a metal except those touching the staircase. Everything on the right side of the staircase is a nonmetal except those touching the staircase. The elements touching the staircase are metalloids.
Most periodic table charts have some indication of radioactive elements. Sometimes the chemical symbol is highlighted; other times the nuclear symbol is imposed behind the chemical symbol. To find how your chart marks radioactive elements, look for elements such as technetium, radon, uranium, etc. to find similarities in the markings.
Using this information, you will be able to gain much more knowledge from the periodic table.