How many elements have you used?

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Thanks to Derek Lowe’s recent post ‘Elements I Have Yet to Use’, we’ve all spent some time this morning looking at the periodic table, casting our minds back to our days in the lab and counting up the elements we HAVE used.

Laura’s in the lead with 31, and Stu is undecided “between 25 and 30” (bless his aged memory…), and I’m down around 20. Gav, as a physical chemist, is at the back of the queue with “between 5 and 10 — including the silicon in the computer!”

I decided to change the rules a little (in my favour, of course!), and asked “but how many elements featured in compounds you actually made?” (in other words, not just as reagents etc). As I hoped, that puts me in the lead thanks to solid-state syntheses rarely involving anything that doesn’t end up in the product! My count for this is about 18, Stu around 12 and Laura 16. Gav says he’s no longer playing the game…!

Between us we’ve used almost every group in the periodic table, apart from the noble gases and possibly group 5 (V, Nb, Ta) — although I did use vanadium cans in some neutron experiments, but apparently that doesn’t count! Lanthanides crop up more than you might expect (La, Ce, Eu, Sm, Gd, poss Yb).

We’re all behind Derek who has used 45 so far — as ever, we bow before his superior awesomeness.


Neil Withers (Associate Editor, Nature Chemistry)