Chemistry’s “New” Periodic Table

in Alumni, Dill, Dan
May 27th, 2011

Periodic Table in the Reception Area

Periodic Table in the Reception Area

When we needed a graphically compelling representation of the Periodic Table for the Chemistry front office, we turned to Professor Dan Dill.  In addition to his theoretical and physical chemistry expertise, Professor Dill is an accomplished photographer, who received a Kodak Award in 2006.  Here is his recounting of the process:

“I received an e-mail from our Chair, John Straub, in which he related designer Kristine Stoller’s idea for a periodic table in the new office. John ended his message with:

I was thinking of the very nice Periodic Table that you created years ago, and that has been much used in our Department.

The tools I used to create that original Periodic Table have been lost in the sands of digital time, and so it was necessary to begin anew, using the latest version of Adobe Illustrator.

Xenon Sample From the Peroidic Table of Elements in the Chemistry

Xenon

The first step in the new design was to  settle on the format of the element boxes. The box for Xenon shows what we settled on, using the typeface Adobe Myriad Pro. (The dark chevron indicates that at room temperature Xenon is a gas.)

With that done, the next step was to assemble the elements into the traditional periodic table format, adapted to the dimensions of the wall in the new chemistry office.  It was then that Kristine mentioned her plan to have the table printed on six resin panels. Her innovative concept allowed us to break with convention by partitioning the table itself into six portions.

Nitrogen Sample From the Peroidic Table of Elements in the Chemistry

Nitrogen

At this point we thought that the only thing left to do was to check and recheck all entries for errors.  Everyone in the department enthusiastically helped with this task.  Just as we were completing it, the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry published its technical report, “Atomic weights of the elements 2009″ (Wieser & Coplen, 12 December 2010).  It recommended that atomic weights for Boron, Carbon, Chlorine, Hydrogen, Lithium, Nitrogen, Oxygen, Sulfur, Silicon and Thallium span intervals (shown, for example, for Nitrogen as 14.00643–14.00728), due to variation in isotopic composition of their stable isotopes.

We consider it good fortune to have been able to incorporate these latest recommendations into the table.  After many new rounds of proof reading, the completed design was printed on the resin panels displayed in the office.