ECU Vice-Chancellor, Professor Steve Chapman, had the world’s largest periodic table built on campus. (Supplied: Edith Cowan University)
A Perth university has decorated one wall of a new science building with what it believes is the world’s largest periodic table of the elements.
- The periodic table on the outside of a WA university building is 662 square metres
- The periodic table was created 150 years ago by Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev
- Vice-chancellor Professor Steve Chapman hopes it will join the list of Australia’s Big Things
Australia latest Big Thing, at Edith Cowan University’s Joondalup campus, was the brainchild of the institution’s vice-chancellor Professor Steve Chapman.
“When you build a science building you have to fill it with a lot of high-tech stuff, with fume hoods and benches and gas lines and everything so you kind of build an oblong,” Professor Chapman explained.
“So I said to the guys, ‘Why don’t we have the world’s largest periodic table?’ and they said, ‘You’re nuts’ but then they looked into it and thought, ‘We could do that’.”
As one of the lightest gases, Helium is at the top of the periodic table of elements. (ABC Radio Perth: Emma Wynne)
Professor radiates enthusiasm for periodic table
At 662 square metres, the table at the WA university is more than four times the size of the periodic table at Spain’s University of Murcia which was created in 2017 and is 150 square metres.
This year also marks the 150th anniversary of the table’s creation by Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev.
Professor Chapman, whose academic background is in biological chemistry and crystallography, was brimming with enthusiasm when he spoke about the periodic table of the elements.
“It’s arguably, in my opinion, one of mankind’s greatest scientific achievements.
“Everything we have in the universe — every known thing — is in the periodic table.
“Looking at the position you can work out whether it’s a metal or a gas.
“It has so much information in it, it is like a kind of map of everything that exists on the planet.”
Professor Steve Chapman plans to deliver first-year lectures in front of the table. (ABC Radio Perth: Emma Wynne)
As vice-chancellor, Professor Chapman spends more time in management meetings than in the laboratory but he plans to include the giant table in his outdoor lectures.
“The only real connection I get with chemistry is that I do some first-year lectures which I absolutely love.
“I do that just to remind myself why I’m in academia because being a vice-chancellor I’m in a lot of meetings and doing a lot of things to do with finance etcetera.
“But the real reason you do it is to let everybody else do the education, the science and their research.
“But reconnecting by indulging yourself by making the world’s largest periodic table — that’s kinda cool.”
The giant periodic table joins WA’s other big things — the world’s tallest bin in Kalgoorlie and the big snail in Albany. (ABC: Nathan Morris / Supplied: Nathan McQuoid)
The next Big Thing?
Australia has more than 150 Big Things — oversized sculptures or creations — in each state and territory.
Professor Chapman hoped the periodic table would join the country’s list of Big Things.
“This should be on the list of Australia’s Big Things and in my humble opinion I think this is the most intellectual of Australia’s Big Things.
“It’s certainly more intellectual than a peach or a prawn — not that I have anything against prawns and peaches.”