why do we use symbols to represent elements

What is a Chemical Symbol? Think of all the symbols and shorthand ways we represent things in our daily lives. A common example of a symbol that you use every day is an emoticon on your cell phone. You use a smiley face to indicate that you are pleased about something. You don't text 'I'm pleased about that'; instead, you just insert a smiley face. You may also use a shorthand version of your name, a nickname, like Bill instead of using the longer version of your name, William. Chemical symbols are used in much the same way. A
chemical symbol is a shorthand method of representing an element. Instead of writing out the name of an element, we represent an element name with one or two letters. As you know, the periodic table is a chemist's easy reference guide. As shown below, the periodic table contains the elements arranged by size of the atom that makes up the element and the properties of those atoms. Each element is represented by a chemical symbol consisting of letters. Examples of chemical symbols are shown in the next section. So what are the origins of these chemical symbols? As early chemists (known as alchemists back then) discovered the fascinating world of chemistry, they often symbolized their newly discovered elements by weird icons, like the one shown here. 1.


Tin- Sn (from the Latin word, stannum 2. Lead- Pb (from the Latin word, plumbus 3. Gold- Au (from the Latin word, aurum 4. Sulfur- S (from the Latin word, sulfurium 5. Mercury- Hg (from the Latin word, hydrargyrum 6. Silver- Ag (from the Latin word argentum 7. Iron- Fe (from the Latin word ferrum All of these 118 elements on the periodic table have chemical symbols represented by the first letter or two of the name of the element. If the chemical symbol has two letters the first letter is always capitalized and the second letter is written in lowercase. For chemical symbols that consist of one letter, that letter is always capitalized. For example, C represents carbon, Ca for calcium, O for oxygen. Some chemical symbols don't seem to make sense because the symbol doesn't correspond with the English word for the element. For example, the element gold is not 'G' or 'Go'. The chemical symbol for gold is Au. You are probably wondering why. Many of the chemical symbols are derived from the Latin names of elements because Latin was once used as the international language of science. The Latin word for gold is aurum and that's where the chemical symbol for gold was derived. After element number 56, you can see that many of the names of elements come from the name of a scientist or location where they were studied.


Some elements are even named after planets. For example, element number 93 has the chemical symbol Np, from the name of the element, neptunium and it was named for the planet Neptune. Chemical symbols are shorthand abbreviations of the names of the 109 known elements. Each element has its own unique symbol. Since science is an international enterprise, chemical symbols are determined by international agreement. The use of symbols for the chemical elements existed long before a systematic method was developed. The alchemists associated the symbols of the planets not only with the days of the week, but also with the seven metals known at the time: gold, silver, mercury, tin, copper, and. By the beginning of the nineteenth century, there were about 26 known elements, but by the beginning of the twentieth century, there were more than 81. As more elements were discovered, the need for symbolic representations for these elements became more evident. During the first half of the nineteenth century, an outstanding Swedish chemist, J ns Jacob Berzelius, systematically assigned letters as symbols for the elements. This method soon became accepted by chemists everywhere. Today, the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) is the organization that makes the final decision on the names and symbols of the element.


Chemical symbols are composed of one or two letters. The first letter is always capitalized and the second, if there is one, is always lowercase. Often these are the first two letters of the element's name but this is not always possible, because it would sometimes cause duplication. For example, the symbol C represents, Ca represents, Cd represents cadium, and Cf represents californium. Most of the elements have symbols derived from their English name, but a few symbols stem from other languages. Notable among these are ten common elements whose names and symbols are derived from Latin. These are: antimony, Sb, from stibium; copper, Cu, from cuprum; gold, Au, from aurum; iron, Fe, from ferrum; potassium, K, from kalium; lead, Pb, from plumbum; mercury, Hg, from hydrargyrum; silver, Ag, from argentum;, Na, from natrium; and tin, Sn, from stannum. Chemical symbols are used by chemists everywhere in writing chemical formulas, in which the symbols represent the of the elements present in a compound. Some strange-looking element names with even stranger-looking three-letter symbols have been in general use recently for the heaviest chemical elements.


Because they may still be seen in periodic tables published between 1980 and 1994, it is important to know what they mean. For example the element of 104 was referred to as unnilquadium, with the symbol Unq, and element 108 was referred to as unniloctium, with the symbol Uno. These names and symbols are based entirely on the atomic numbers themselves: un means 1, nil means 0, and quad means 4; therefore unnilquad means 104. These names and symbols were recommended by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry to be used temporarily, until certain disputes about who discovered these elements could be resolved. The discoverers of a new element have historically been given the right to suggest a name. But three groups of nuclear chemists all claim to have been the first to discover some of the transuranium elements: an American group at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory in California, a Russian group at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna, and a German group at the Gesellschaft f r Schwerionenforschung in Darmstadt. In 1994, the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry attempted to settle the issues by recommending "official" names and symbols for elements 101 through 109, but they are still being hotly debated.

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