The elements of the periodic table make up everything in the world around us. They’re undeniably important. And yet, some are more important than others. Some of the elements play a fundamental role in biological processes. Some are essential to the technologies the underpin our modern world. Still others are likely to be invaluable to future discoveries that shape how we will live tomorrow. What will be the most significant element in 150 years? While it’s impossible for anyone living today to make that determination, some of the brightest minds in chemists are willing to offer up their best guesses.
In this video, ACS Editors share their picks for the most significant element of the next 150 years. Why that number? Because 2019 marks 150 years since Dmitri Mendeleev unveiled the first version of his periodic table of elements in 1869. To celebrate this milestone anniversary, The American Chemical Society is joining with The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to celebrate the International Year of the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements (IYPT). All year long, ACS Publications is sharing stories about the periodic table and leading a discussion about the elements and their role in our lives.
The periodic table of 1869 was very different than the one we have today. For starters, his periodic table only had 63 elements — only a little over half of the 118 we know about today. We also understand the properties of elements better now. For example, silicon was known in Mendeleev’s day, but chemists of 1869 had no idea how important the element would become over the next 150 years.
Similarly, we can’t know what the world of 2169 will be like, or what people living in that year will value. But as we stand halfway between their time and Mendeleev’s, we can pause to think about the impact of the periodic table and role various elements play in our lives, as well as how those needs might change over time.