Chemical elements in mobile phones placed on ‘endangered’ list
The new periodic table highlights the scarcity of elements used in must-have tech gadgets (Source: University of St Andrews)
Chemical elements used in everyday devices such as smartphones and TVs are at risk of going extinct, according to Scottish scientists.
Boffins at the University of St Andrews have created a new periodic table in a bid to highlight the scarcity of elements used in must-have tech gadgets and encourage a reduction in waste.
Carbon, potassium and magnesium are among the elements included on the new list, which has been created by the European Chemical Society (ECS) to mark the 150th anniversary of the periodic table.
Smartphones are made up of roughly 30 elements, over half of which could be under threat due to increased scarcity, the scientists said.
Limited supplies, reduced access due to conflicts and our inability to recycle are putting increased strain on these finite resources, they added.
ECS vice-president Professor David Cole-Hamilton questioned the trend of replacing mobile phones every two years and called for greater awareness of the lifespan of elements.
“It is astonishing that everything in the world is made from just 90 building blocks, the 90 naturally occurring chemical elements,” he said.
“There is a finite amount of each and we are using some so fast that they will be dissipated around the world in less than 100 years.”
Roughly 10m smartphones are discarded or replaced every month in the EU alone, according to the European Commission.
Catherine Stihler, Labour MEP for Scotland and former rector of the University of St Andrews, said: “As we mark the 150th anniversary of the periodic table, it’s fascinating to see it updated for the 21st century.
“But it’s also deeply worrying to see how many elements are on the endangered list, including those which make up mobile phones.”
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