This project has two objectives: (a) To create an interactive, electronic version of the IUPAC Periodic Table of the Isotopes (IPTI) that will be disseminated as a free resource to a global audience on a range of platforms and devices, including personal computers and other devices such as tablets and smartphones. (b) To deliver the IPTI in an interactive electronic form that will encourage users to interact with each element, understand its isotopic composition and variability, and explore applications in everyday life of that element. The interactive electronic IPTI will be accompanied by educational resources and interactive learning objects that will enable users to understand the mass spectrometric and other evidence that leads to our knowledge of the nature of isotopes and the IPTI.
The IUPAC Periodic Table, hanging on the wall of classrooms around the world, found on the inside cover of most chemistry textbooks, and widely accessed on the web, has become an icon representing a core activity for IUPAC at the interface between fundamental scientific developments and educational outreach. Yet recent developments in what scientists know about isotopes and atomic weights has the potential to both communicate the power of chemistry at its interfaces, and to create very large pedagogical challenges. To simultaneously address these educational opportunities and challenges, a series of two joint projects between the Inorganic Chemistry Division (Div II) and the Committee on Chemistry Education (CCE) has been established to create, review, and disseminate globally to students and educators the new IUPAC Periodic Table of the Isotopes (IPTI).
The first project (2007-038-3-200) successfully developed and launched the print version of the IPTI during the International Year of Chemistry, and received a substantial amount of interest in the education community and also media coverage for IUPAC.
The present project is the second in this series and has two objectives: (a) To realize the intended global reach of the new periodic table, the project will create an interactive, electronic version of the IPTI that will be disseminated as a free resource to a global audience on a range of platforms and devices, including personal computers and other devices such as tablets and smartphones. (b) Initial experience by educators of the print version of the new IPTI has confirmed what was predicted at the beginning of the first project: Knowledge that the atomic weights of many stable isotopes are not ‘constants of nature’ but rather are best expressed as intervals due to variability in isotopic abundances is revolutionary, and poses significant conceptual difficulties for educators and students at both the secondary and tertiary level, as well as for the interested public.
Understanding the experimental evidence for atomic weights and isotopic abundances is, in itself, a necessary part of chemistry education. To address this pedagogical challenge, this project proposes to deliver the IPTI in an interactive electronic form that will encourage users to interact with each element, understand its isotopic composition and variability, and explore applications in everyday life of that element. Reflecting best practices in science education, the new periodic table will be accompanied by interactive digital learning objects that will facilitate understanding the evidence that leads to our knowledge of the nature of isotopes and the IPTI. Such understanding, which is based on techniques such as mass spectrometry, can also be used to convey a sense of appreciation for the power of chemistry to solve important problems in areas such as geochemistry, climate science, forensic science, food chemistry, and environmental science.
The project will be carried out in five phases:
Phase 1 – Consultation, using virtual meetings, within the project group, and with educators who piloted the print version of the IPTI to articulate learning objectives and design principles that will guide the creation of the interactive electronic version of IPTI and the accompanying digital learning objects.
Phase 2 – Creation of Interactive Electronic IUPAC Periodic Table of the Isotopes and accompanying digital learning objects, incorporating much of the 400+ pages of data and figures for the 118 elements, created for the initial project, with iterative feedback involving the entire task group. Copyright clearance for all figures.
Phase 3 – External review of Interactive Table by individuals with expertise on (a) the scientific issues and (b) pedagogical presentation, following which members of the project task force will meet in a series of virtual conferences to evaluate the feedback and approve the final products.
Phase 4 – Hands-on workshops (2) with chemistry educators at both secondary and tertiary levels and a cohort of tertiary students at the IUPAC International Conference on Chemistry Education (ICCE) for detailed assessment of the usability of new materials and to provide the input needed to refine them prior to dissemination. The two workshops will be led by the task group co-chairs (or designated task group members), so as to provide the necessary expertise on both the science and educational dimensions of the project.
Phase 5 – Publication for free distribution on Web and promotion through IUPAC and other networks, including the social networks that proved successful in publicizing IYC-2011.
August 2016 update – This project requires content from the first project on an isotopic periodic table (project 2007-038-3-200). The manuscript now in preparation for Pure and Applied Chemistry, titled “IUPAC Periodic Table of the Elements and Isotopes for the Education Community (IUPAC Technical Report)” received numerous reviews in spring of 2016 and is currently 300-plus page. As a result of helpful reviewer comments, a glossary of 148 terms (from “absorption cross section” to “X-rays”) has been added. It is envisioned that the final manuscript will re-submitted to PAC during the summer of 2016.
At the request of reviewers, the IUPAC Periodic Table of the Elements and Isotopes has been updated to include conventional atomic weight values for the 12 elements having interval standard atomic weight values (hydrogen, lithium, boron carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, magnesium, silicon, sulfur, chlorine, bromine, and thallium). These values can serve in education when a single representative value is needed, such as for molecular weight calculations. A recent version of the Table is shown below.
Building on this project, IUPAC and the King’s Centre for Visualization in Science will release on 17 August 2016 a new interactive electronic periodic table of the elements and isotopes in a special plenary session at the International Conference on Chemistry Education in Kuching, Malaysia. The interactive periodic table is accompanied by a set of peer reviewed educational resources (www.isotopesmatter.com) that guide users through the new periodic table and explain the scientific evidence that provides the basis for our understanding of how many isotopes there are for each element, what their relative abundances are, and how atomic weights are determined for each element.
Dec 2016 – Project update published in Chem. Int. Nov 2016, p. 25; https://doi.org/10.1515/ci-2016-0619
Oct 2018 – Why Isotopes Matter! is Story 0.4 on the IUPAC100 story blog. See <https://iupac.org/100/stories/why-isotopes-matter/>
Page last updated 13 Oct 2018