Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory Office of Science NEWTON's Homepage NEWTON's Homepage
NEWTON, Ask A Scientist!
NEWTON Home Page NEWTON Teachers Visit Our Archives Ask A Question How To Ask A Question Question of the Week Our Expert Scientists Volunteer at NEWTON! Frequently Asked Questions Referencing NEWTON About NEWTON About Ask A Scientist Education At Argonne How are Elements Discovered?
Name: Kayla D.
Status: student
Age: 12
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: 2/19/2003


Question:
How do scientists discover elements?


Replies:
Kayla,

Elements are the simplest forms of matter -- sometimes referred to as the "building blocks of the universe." When any substance is broken down chemically into its simplest components, those components are referred to as "elements." The "easy" ones have already been discovered.

As scientists made a catalog of those which were discovered over time, a Russian scientist (Mendeleev) and a German scientist (Meyer) arranged the elements in the form of a table with the known elements listed in rows and columns based on their chemical properties.

The modern version of that arrangement is referred to as "The Periodic Table of the Atoms." Mendeleev left blanks in the table where he believed as yet undiscovered elements would one day fit. Today's Periodic Table contains no blanks in its body -- only unfilled spaces in its last horizontal row. Elements that will one day fill in those spaces must (thus far) be synthesized (made from) other elements.

It is a complex and difficult task that will take much time to accomplish. In theory, at least, there is no end to the number of elements that can exist. Nevertheless, the current Periodic Table contains only about 110 such building blocks. Every"thing" we know anything about, we believe, has been built of this small handful of elementary materials.

Regards,
ProfHoff 589



Click here to return to the General Topics Archives

NEWTON is an electronic community for Science, Math, and Computer Science K-12 Educators, sponsored and operated by Argonne National Laboratory's Educational Programs, Andrew Skipor, Ph.D., Head of Educational Programs.

For assistance with NEWTON contact a System Operator (help@newton.dep.anl.gov), or at Argonne's Educational Programs

NEWTON AND ASK A SCIENTIST
Educational Programs
Building 360
9700 S. Cass Ave.
Argonne, Illinois
60439-4845, USA
Update: June 2012
Weclome To Newton

Argonne National Laboratory