A periodic table is a very convenient way of arranging the elements which occur in nature. Elements are stored in boxes next to each other and it helps in cataloguing our universe quite efficiently. However, it might not be the only method in which the elements can be arranged or even the best way of arrangement.
Many designs of the periodic table have been provided before and now mathematicians from Max Planck Institute have provided elaborate mathematical techniques for arranging the elements with the help of complex hypergraphs rather than the basic way which is currently used worldwide. Through this method, researchers claim that periodic elements can be adapted in several ways and thus giving many kinds of interpretations in which elements are classified based on the ordering, where every single one of them is correct. The study has been published in the Proceedings of Royal Society journal.
The periodic table used presently was devised by a Russian scientist named Dmitri Mendeleev in the year 1869. Based on the 63 elements which were known at that time, he put forward a technique of arranging them. Currently, elements are sorted on the basis of the atomic number, which means the number of protons that occur in the nucleus of an atom.
Along with the atomic number of the element, the atomic weight, the element’s atomic symbol and a colour subgrouping it with other elements of similar properties are also provided. However, in the case of many arrangements, scientists have different opinions on where they are located in the periodic table. The researchers claim that through this hypergraph technique elements can be arranged in several flexible configurations. When arranged on the basis of atomic number within the hypergraph, elements can still be classified in many ways within the organised hypergraph such as water solubility, geological deposits where elements are found etc.
This system, based on chemical bonds, rearranges the elements in a new way. Some elements remain grouped together, such as halogens, because they bond the same way; but others are separated, like silicon and carbon, which, when bonded, form very different compounds.
Mathematician Guillermo Restrepo has compared this solution provided by the team to a sculpture. The shadow cast depends on the direction of light. He said that the periodic tables are the different shadows which are cast. Because of which, there are so many different ways for creating the tables.
Below is the proposed periodic table which is 90 degrees rotated version of the above image
There are three defined conditions for establishing the periodic table. Firstly, it has to be ordered which means the elements have to be catalogued. Second, the arrangement has to be according to a certain property, like the atomic number and the final condition is that there needs to be a criterion for grouping such as chemical similarity. Restrepo said that if the above conditions are satisfied then periodic tables can be created for many other chemical entities and even for elements outside chemistry.