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The University of Southampton

University of Southampton sees Periodic Table come alive for Chemistry Week

Published: 15 November 2019
Chemistry at Southampton
Southampton will host a projection by the Royal Society for Chemistry as part of Chemistry Week 2019

The University of Southampton is lighting up in support of Chemistry Week (18-24 November), part of the International Year of the Periodic Table.

The eye-catching display will see the Periodic Table come alive on the University’s Highfield Campus as Southampton joins 11 leading universities across the UK to highlight a serious issue – the threat to a growing number of elements through a lack of recycling old tech devices.

The projection will be visible on the south side of Building 85 (Life Sciences) from 5.00pm on Friday, 22 November. Chemistry activities and demonstrations will be organised by Southampton staff and students at the same time and include “Gold Fingerprinting” and “The Chemistry of Mulled Wine” while children can explore and design elements to contribute to a Periodic Table.

Research carried out by the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC), in a recent Ipsos MORI survey, found that 51% of UK households have at least one unused electronic device – such as mobile phones, computers, smart TVs, MP3 players or e-readers – and 45% have up to five. Of these, 82% have no plans to recycle or sell on their devices after they fall out of use.


Gold fingerprint
Southampton's Electrochemical Circus will offer gold fingerprinting.

However, these abandoned electronics lying forgotten at the back of drawers harbour precious elements that are at risk of running out.

Now, chemistry and chemical scientists from universities spanning Southampton to St Andrews have a crucial role to play in identifying new solutions, both in finding alternatives to these rare elements where possible, and in finding new, more effective ways to extract elements from used devices and recycle them.

Professor Gill Reid, Head of Southampton’s School of Chemistry said: “Everything around us is made from one or more of the elements contained in the periodic table. Today we use these chemicals to create the items that are at the heart of modern society, be it electronic devices such as mobile phones and computers, transportation or equipment in hospitals that helps saves lives. However, many of the chemical elements are under threat due to their limited supply on the planet. Chemistry is vital for the creation of a sustainable future, therefore, as we mark 150 years since the periodic table was created, it is vitally important that we all take action now to recycle these items to ensure the sustainability of the elements for future generations.”

As Black Friday deals and the festive season approaches, the sales of new tech devices are expected to spike, prompting the Royal Society of Chemistry to encourage people to reuse their old devices, recycle them or donate them to recycling charities.

Robert Parker, CEO of the Royal Society of Chemistry said: “This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Mendeleev Periodic Table of Elements. Now, over a century and a half later, many of the elements discovered are in critical danger of running out.

“We’re really pleased to have the support of some the UK and Ireland’s leading institutions in bringing the importance of the message to life – literally highlighting the responsibility we have in ensuring our old devices are properly recycled.

“In the future, they could be needed for other technologies that we haven’t even discovered yet – for health, green energy, treating pollution and more.”

The RSC hopes the drive will highlight the urgent need for a Right to Recycle bill to be introduced for tech waste, making it quick and easy to dispose of unused devices.

The universities lighting up are Newcastle (18 Nov), Northumbria (19 Nov), University of East London (19 Nov), Keele (20 Nov), Edinburgh (20 Nov), Middlesex (21 Nov), Manchester Metropolitan (21 Nov), Trinity College Dublin (21 Nov), St Andrews (21 Nov), Southampton (22 Nov) and Nottingham (22 Nov).

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