Animation: 300 Years of Element Discovery in 99 Seconds
Connect with us

Misc

300 Years of Element Discovery in 99 Seconds

Published

on

300 Years of Element Discovery in 99 Seconds

Chemical elements are the building blocks of modern society.

Our fundamental understanding of the periodic table has allowed us to: build rockets that can withstand scorching temperatures; harness permanent magnets that can help us generate electricity; erect ultra strong and tall skyscrapers; and discover compounds that can eradicate disease around the world.

But while we take this elemental knowledge for granted today, there was a time not too long ago when the periodic table was mostly empty.

The Elemental Dark Age

Today’s animation comes to us from materials scientist Dr. Jamie Gallagher and it chronicles the last three centuries of discoveries for the periodic table of elements.

It starts in the year 1718, around time of Isaac Newton, when the scientific method was young and the knowledge we had around chemistry was still very incomplete.

The year 1718

At the time, we knew about elements like iron, copper, gold, silver, and lead – but the periodic table contained just 11% of elements compared to today.

A Flurry of New Discoveries

In the late 18th century and early 19th century, researchers started seeing patterns that allowed them to make new discoveries.

Specifically, the years between 1788-1825 were particularly fruitful – over this stretch, the periodic table more than doubled in size from 26 to 53 elements.

The year 1825

Lithium, calcium, titanium, vanadium, tungsten, palladium, silicon, niobium, and uranium were some of the elements to join the table during this critical time period.

Formation of the Periodic Table

In the 19th century, the French geologist Alexandre-Emile Béguyer de Chancourtois was the first to notice the periodicity of elements, and in 1862 devised an early version of the periodic table.

A few years later, in 1869, Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev created a table organized by atomic mass, which more closely resembles the one we use today.

Here were the elements known at the time:

While nowhere near complete, it includes many of the elements that are used in modern life today.

The Final Touches

By the 20th century, chemistry was becoming more formalized, as we knew more about atoms, protons, electrons, neutrons, and so on. This led to the fleshing out of the periodic table as we know it.

By this point, researchers were even creating radioactive, synthetic elements like unununium (Atomic number 111) which is now known as Roentgenium. Like many other late element discoveries, this one is not found in nature and the most common isotope has a half-life of just 100 seconds.

These final discoveries, some of which happened in recent decades, helped bring up the periodic table to its current size: 118 elements.

Subscribe to Visual Capitalist
Click for Comments

Automotive

The Most Fuel Efficient Cars From 1975 to Today

This infographic lists the most fuel efficient cars over the past 46 years, including the current leader for 2023.

Published

on

The Most Fuel Efficient Cars From 1975 to Today

When shopping for a new car, what is the most important factor you look for? According to Statista, it’s not design, quality, or even safety—it’s fuel efficiency.

Because of this, automakers are always looking for clever ways to improve gas mileage in their cars. Beating the competition by even the slimmest of margins can give valuable bragging rights within a segment.

In this infographic, we’ve used data from the EPA’s 2022 Automotive Trends Report to list off the most fuel efficient cars from 1975 to today.

Editor’s note: This is from a U.S. government agency, so the data shown skews towards cars sold in North America.

Data Overview

All of the information in the above infographic is listed in the table below. Data was only available in 5-year increments up until 2005, after which it switches to annual.

Model YearMakeModelReal World Fuel Economy (mpg)Engine Type
1975HondaCivic28.3Gas
1980VWRabbit40.3Diesel
1985ChevroletSprint49.6Gas
1990GeoMetro53.4Gas
1995HondaCivic47.3Gas
2000HondaInsight57.4Hybrid
2005HondaInsight53.3Hybrid
2006HondaInsight53Hybrid
2007ToyotaPrius46.2Hybrid
2008ToyotaPrius46.2Hybrid
2009ToyotaPrius46.2Hybrid
2010HondaFCX60.2FCEV
2011BMWActive E100.6EV
2012Mitsubishii-MiEV109EV
2013ToyotaiQ EV117EV
2014BMWi3121.3EV
2015BMWi3121.3EV
2016BMWi3121.3EV
2017HyundaiIoniq Electric132.6EV
2018HyundaiIoniq Electric132.6EV
2019HyundaiIoniq Electric132.6EV
2020Tesla3138.6EV
2021Tesla3139.1EV

From this dataset, we can identify three distinct approaches to maximizing fuel efficiency.

Downsizing

Prior to 2000, the best way for automakers to achieve good fuel efficiency was by downsizing. Making cars smaller (lighter) meant they could also be fitted with very small engines.

For example, the 1985 Chevrolet Sprint was rated at 49.6 MPG, but had a sluggish 0-60 time of 15 seconds.

Hybrids

The 2000s saw the introduction of mass-market hybrid vehicles like the Honda Insight and Toyota Prius. By including a small battery to support the combustion engine, automakers could achieve good MPGs without sacrificing so heavily on size.

While the Insight achieved better fuel economy than the Prius, it was the latter that became synonymous with the term “hybrid”. This was largely due to the Prius’ more practical 4-door design.

The following table compares annual U.S. sales figures for both models. Insight sales have fluctuated drastically because Honda has produced the model in several short spans (1999-2006, 2009-2014, 2018-2022).

YearInsight SalesPrius Sales
2005666107,155
2006722106,971
20073181,221
2008-158,884
200920,572150,831
201020,962140,928
201115,549136,464
20126,619236,655
20134,802234,228
20143,965207,372
20151,458184,794
201667136,629
20173108,661
201812,51387,590
201923,68669,718
202015,93243,525
202118,68559,010
20227,62833,352

Source: goodcarbadcar.net

The Prius may have dominated the hybrid market for a long time, but it too has run into troubles. Sales have been declining since 2014, even setting historic lows in recent years.

There are several reasons behind this trend, with one being a wider availability of hybrid models from other brands. We also can’t ignore the release of the Tesla Model 3, which began shipping to customers in 2017.

Electric Vehicles

We’re currently in the middle of a historic transition to electric vehicles. However, because EVs do not use fuel, the EPA had to develop a new system called MPGe (miles per gallon of gasoline-equivalent).

This new metric gives us the ability to compare the efficiency of EVs with traditional gas-powered cars. An underlying assumption of MPGe is that 33.7 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity is comparable to the energy content of a gallon of fuel.

The most fuel efficient car you can buy today is the 2023 Lucid Air, which achieves 140 MPGe. Close behind it is the 2023 Tesla Model 3 RWD, which is rated at 132 MPGe.

Check out this page to see the EPA’s top 10 most efficient vehicles for 2023.

Continue Reading

Subscribe

Popular