New version of periodic table shows scarce elements for electronics

January 25, 2019 // By Nick Flaherty
Chemists at the University of St Andrews in Scotland have developed a new version of the periodic table which highlights the scarcity of elements used in everyday devices such as batteries and consumer electronics.

Around ten million smartphones are discarded or replaced every month in the European Union alone, so the European Chemical Society (EuChemS), which represents more than 160,000 chemists, worked with teh researchers at St Andrews to highlight the remaining availability of all 90 elements and their vulnerabilities, including sourcing from areas of conflict.

Smartphones use around 30 elements, over half of which give cause for concern in the years to come because of increasing scarcity – whether because of limited supplies, their location in conflict areas, or the current inability to fully recycle them. The table highlights threats to the supply of gallium, arsenic zinc and even silver, as well as the rising problems for the supply of cobalt, lithium and platinum.

“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," said Professor David Cole-Hamilton, emeritus professor of chemistry at St Andrews.

2019 is the United Nations International Year of the Periodic Table (IYPT2019) and the 150th anniversary of scientist Dmitri Mendeleev’s description of the periodic system. 

www.st-andrews.ac.uk

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