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Endangered Elements of The Periodic Table

The periodic table is where the known chemical elements are arranged in tabular form in order of their atomic numbers. In general, the elements are arranged along with their atomic numbers and symbols in rows (known as periods) on the table and the elements with similar behavior are placed in the same column (called groups).

The Periodic Table is included in the syllabus of CBSE, ICSEand other boards and is one of the most important topics for the exam. There are about 118 elements in the periodic table and elements from 1-94 are naturally occurring elements and the rest are synthesized in labs.

Among the 118 elements, 9 elements face serious threats in the next 100 years and thus are categorized as endangered elements. Here some of the endangered elements are mentioned that needs to be safeguarded for the future.

1.    Helium

It may be surprising to find the second most abundant element in the universe in the list of this endangered list. Helium has found its way into the endangered list because it is able to escape the earth’s atmosphere due to its light weight. Even after in the endangered list, the US National Helium Reserve which has the largest stock of Helium in the world sells with relatively cheap prices.

Helium finds its wide use in party balloons, super cooling magnets, etc. and according to some estimates, the helium will only last for the next 25 years and so it is very important that helium is protected for the future use.

Some measures need to be taken so that the helium supply can last longer but with the present cost it is not really economic and is easily available. So, the cost needs to be risen to prevent misuse. Also, helium should be recycled wherever possible and for that some facilities are developed to capture helium during the production of natural gases.

2.    Hafnium

This element might be uncommon to most people, but it is used as control rods in some nuclear reactors and as super alloys in jet engines. Currently, the hafnium is produced as a byproduct while refining Zirconium (i.e. the element just above it) since it is found in combination with the zirconium which also has applications in nuclear plants.

Hafnium is placed on the endangered list because its supply is getting outpaced with the increase in its demand in various nuclear industries. Proper alternatives and ways to extract hafnium must be devised to save this endangered element.

3.      Indium

Indium finds its application as an important component in touchscreen devices as indium tin oxide. The indium tin oxide is used as an electricity conducting material in transparent films. Indium is produced mostly from the extraction of zinc since it is also a byproduct of this process and is also present in lead and tin ores in low concentrations.

The indium is presently on the endangered list because it does not occur in high concentrations to be profitably extracted from the aforementioned ores at current prices. The process of applying indium tin oxide in devices need to be refined since the process is a bit inefficient at present and it is also very important to devise a proper technique to recover indium from unwanted devices.

4.      Rare earth elements

These are the element in the top row of the two removed rows and are placed at the foot of the periodic table. The only marked element highlighted in this table is neodymium which is used to make small but powerful magnets like the ones used in headphones and in the hard drives of the computers.

The rare-earth elements occur together and it is difficult to separate them since they have similar chemical properties. So, their lack of abundance is not an issue presently but isolating them is surely a serious problem.

As the demand for these elements is outpacing the supply, these elements need to be recycled and alternative materials should be used in magnets which are available in abundance.

5.      Catalysts

Catalysts find its use in laboratories and in different catalytic converters (in cars). Many endangered elements are used as catalysts like palladium and rhodium. The platinum was also previously used before the phase out of leaded petrol.

The prices of these elements have increased since their supplies were unable to meet the demand. Though the designs of catalytic converters are also adapted in such a way that the use of endangered elements limited but no proper alternatives to the platinum group metals are found to remove carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons from exhaust fumes. So, there has to be more research on the catalytic converters to reduce the use of these endangered catalysts.

Preserving these endangered elements are really important so that they do not get extinct in the near future. The periodic table is a very important topic for not only getting well acquainted with different elements but also for different competitive exams like JEE exam and NEET.

About the author:
With a degree in Engineering, SouvikBhattacharjee is a content writer by profession. He loves writing and blogging along with part-time teaching. He is presently exploring all about the digital education with Byju’s-the Learning App.