This Is What Every Element Is Used For

By Nathaniel Scharping | November 7, 2016 12:02 pm


When it comes to the elements, humans are pretty good at ensuring that nothing goes to waste. We’ve put nearly every element on the periodic table to work, whether it’s fueling chemical reactions within our bodies or propelling payloads to orbit.

We all know what some of the 118 elements are used for — we breathe oxygen, pour chlorine in our swimming pools and wrap gold around our fingers — but what about some of the more underrated members of the periodic table? Take, for example,  yttrium, hafnium and samarium — did you even know they existed?

This interactive periodic table from Seattle-based designer Keith Enevoldsen puts the elements in the context of their uses, making for a far more relevant way to study chemistry. Along with the name and atomic number of each element, Enevoldsen added helpful graphics and a short explanation of how each element is put to use. Some of those more obscure elements play fundamental roles in shaping modern-day society: lighter flints use cerium, smoke detectors have americium inside, and color televisions need Europium to function.

A few elements have no current uses, such as protactinium and berkelium. The short-lived, man-made elements starting with einsteinium have no uses at the moment either, as they don’t stick around long enough for scientists to experiment on them. As the search for new elements continues, however, we may yet find something useful, especially if researchers ever happen upon the “island of stability” a point where large elements become stable enough to stick around again.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology, top posts
  • Uncle Al

    yttrium, haftium and samarium — did you even know they existed?” haftium? no

    • Cajun Exile

      I thought Haftium was term used in ebonics…

      • Wishinonehandism

        Disney died with a smile on his face knowing that one of his characters had one of the most dangerous elements named after him.

      • Uncle Al

        Send them to Colorado to mine lanthanoids. All that requires is a strong back, a weak mind, and a taste for otter water beer. . America is baaack!

    • OWilson

      Most know that hillarium bonds mainly with gold.

      • Wishinonehandism

        Same as clintonium.

        • Sid

          You mean Willium

          • Wishinonehandism

            Well actually they both have a strong affinity to gold.

    • okiejoe

      You need new glasses, it is HafNium. Haftium is a break in the middle of a football game.

  • Dale Day

    I love
    stuff like this. I wish it was easier to read but, if you use the
    little magnifying glass, you can get a closer look at each item.

  • Juan

    The link to buy the poster is broken.

  • quickStudy

    QuickStudy® provides academic posters – for any classroom, home or office, dorm room. These laminated posters feature human anatomy, the U.S. and world maps, periodic table of elements, incorporating the same comprehensive; you will find detailed information in our regular laminated guides. Our laminated posters will make your walls look a little more exciting!
    Features: Anatomical posters
    • High-quality anatomical illustrations by an award-winning illustrator Vincent Perez
    • Hundreds of anatomical identifications
    • Anatomy Poster available in a paper or laminated
    Price: $6.95–$17.95

  • alex zuber

    This is good stuff.


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