A periodic table has been created by scientists from the University of St Andrews to raise awareness about the vulnerability of elements used in smartphones.
The table marks the 150th anniversary of Dmitri Mendeleev’s version. It also celebrates the discovery of what is thought to be the oldest surviving periodic table from the School of Chemistry.
This particular table highlights the scarcity of 90 elements and how available they are. Smartphones are made up of 30 elements, of which more than half are thought to becoming increasingly difficult to obtain.
It was developed by the European Chemical Society (EuChemS), which represents more than 160,000 chemists. They estimate that ten million smartphones in the European Union are thrown away or replaced.
Their vice president is St Andrews Emeritus Professor in Chemistry David Cole-Hamilton, who hopes that the table will encourage people to recycle their phones instead. The table was presented at the European Parliament on 22 January by British MEPs Catherine Stihler and Clare Moody.
Professor Cole-Hamilton said, “It is astonishing that everything in the world is made from just 90 building blocks, the 90 naturally occurring chemical elements.
“There is a finite amount of each and we are using some so fast that they will be dissipated around the world in less than 100 years.
“Many of these elements are endangered, so should you really change your phone every two years?” Catherine Stihler, Labour MEP for Scotland and a former Rector said, “As we mark the 150th anniversary of the periodic table, it’s fascinating to see it updated for the 21st century.
“But it’s also deeply worrying to see how many elements are on the endangered list, including those which make up mobile phones.
“It is a lesson to us all to care for the world around us, as these naturally-occurring elements won’t last forever unless we increase global recycling rates and governments introduce a genuine circular economy.”
Pilar Goya, EuChemS President, said, “For EuChemS, the supranational organisation representing more than 160,000 chemists from different European countries, the celebration of the International Year of the Periodic Table is a great opportunity to communicate the crucial role of chemistry in overcoming the challenges society will be facing in the near future.”