Thursday, 5 May 2011

Res Metallica on Mendeleev

RSC Belgium treasurer, Rita Woodward, reports for RSC Belgium News on the Res Metallica Symposium on ‘The Periodic Table of Mendeleev’ that took place on Wednesday May 4 at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven(KULeuven).

In 2011, scientists from every corner of the world are celebrating the International Year of Chemistry. Moreover 2011 marks the one-hundredth anniversary of the Nobel Prize in chemistry, awarded to Maria Sklodowska Curie for her groundbreaking discovery of radium and polonium.

So it was very appropriate that this year’s theme for the Res Metallica Symposium was the Periodic Table of Mendeleev. The meeting was held in the historic ‘Aula van ode Tweede Hoofdwet’ KU Leuven, Thermo-technisch Instituut on the Heverlee campus. This interdisciplinary symposium, introduced by chairman, Prof Patrick Wollants (Dept. of Materials Science, MTM) proved to be of great interest with over 500 people from academia and industry gathered together to hear about Mendeleev's periodic system and its relevance for material science.

A significant highlight of the symposium was when, amidst a shower of sparks, a life-sized 'Table of Mendeleev’ in an up-to-date 3-D format was unveiled. The table (see above - photo (c) K.U.Leuven - Rob Stevens) consists of a total of 112 boxes containing the elements displayed as simple substances in their pure elementary state.

Keynote speakers
Keynote speakers at the symposium included Prof. Peter Atkins of Oxford University (left) the well-known physical chemist and author of numerous popular science tomes such as 'The Elements 'and chemical textbooks such as his classical 'Physical Chemistry'. He offered participants a seat at the periodic table and explored mathematically and visually the underlying role of symmetry as applied to hydrogenic systems in one to four dimensions. Atkins' talk was followed by the unvieling of the new periodic table.

Following this excitement Prof Eric Scerri from UCLA in California gave a talk encapsulating the twists and turns of history to reveal the story and the significance of the Periodic Table.

Following on, Dr Jürgen Gieshoff of Umicore presented an industrial insight into the use of certain elements of the Periodic Table as catalysts, promoters and storage agents in the quest for ‘clean’ technologies for the automotive industry. Maurits Van Camp also from Umicore addressed issues involved in exploiting ‘the urban goldmine’ to achieve a sustainable future based on metals that can be almost indefinitely recycled and reused.

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