UNESCO’s year of the periodic table at Lion Salt Works

Elementary Fun  – The launch of the UNESCO’s ‘Year of the Periodic Table’ is celebrated by Cheshire’s award-winning Lion Salt Works Museum with a series of fun events throughout 2019

Historically, salt (a compound of sodium) was a catalyst for much of Cheshire’s extensive chemical industry. Brunner Mond in Northwich, was once one of the world’s largest chemical companies, before becoming ICI. The huge deposits of salt beneath the Cheshire continue to provide employment across the county.

On Tuesday, 29 January in Paris, UNESCO is launching the ‘International Year of the Periodic Table’* Cheshire’s multi award-winning Lion Salt Works Museum in Northwich, Cheshire is celebrating this event by holding a series of Periodic Table-themed activities throughout 2019, including at the Cheshire-wide science festival ‘Amazed by Science’ week in May and during its Summer holiday programme.

Salt or Sodium Chloride (NaCl) is a compound of the element Sodium (Na). Salt is a key factor in the formation of Cheshire’s extensive chemical industry because salt was historically, and remains, an important catalyst for many chemical processes. Combined with natural transport and shipping routes, through the centuries, the Cheshire salt plain and surrounding area has consolidated its position as a key location for the chemical, petro-chemicals and pharmaceutical industries.

Councillor Louise Gittins, Cabinet Member for Communities and Wellbeing at Cheshire West and Chester Council, said: “There is a marvellous simplicity to being able to see all the elements of the universe summarised on a single page of paper. Not everyone is a chemist -  but the stories surrounding the discovery of many of the elements of the Periodic Table are fascinating. For instance, when Aluminium was discovered in the 1850s, it was considered to be as rare as gold and silver because of the huge cost of extracting it. Emperor Napoleon III is said to have given a banquet at which his most honoured guests were given aluminium crockery with the rest of the guests getting gold or silver.”

Please see the end of the release for interesting facts about the elements whose chemical symbols spell out ‘Lion Salt Works’.

“With salt being a major factor in the rise of the chemical industry in Cheshire, we are doubly delighted to be supporting UNESCO’s launch of the ‘Year of the Periodic Table’ and the 150th anniversary of Dmitri Mendeleev’s version of the table. Mendeleev’s new design for the table brilliantly anticipated that new elements would be one day be discovered and where on the table they would fit.”

The Lion Salt Works Museum was restored in 2015 after a four year, £10m restoration. It is one of the last open-pan, salt-making sites in the world and is a Scheduled Ancient Monument, with the same protection status as Stonehenge and Hadrian’s Wall.

Cheshire’s Lion Salt Works Museum tells the story of salt in fun and interactive displays, including a sound and light show that evokes the steam rising from the giant salt pans, a ‘subsiding house’, interactive displays and an automaton. In addition to a children’s play area, shop, butterfly garden and café, there are also year-round activities. These range from science trips for schools, Touring Rural Arts plays and ‘Live & Local’ events to weekends featuring historic narrowboats and steam engines as well as a week-long Christmas celebration.

The Lion Salt Works Museum has won nine awards since opening in 2015, including winning the National Lottery’s top award for heritage projects in 2016. The Museum has also won the Sandford Award for teaching excellence.

Photo Caption: The building blocks of life – children at the Museum’s Little Lions pre-school session, playing with blocks featuring the symbols of the periodic table.

 

Having Fun with the Periodic Table - Lion Salt Works spelled out in the symbols of the Periodic Table - revealing some of the interesting facts and uses behind the elements

 

LION

Li  Lithium: The lightest known metal, it is also used to lighten mood in psychiatric medicine, treating disorders like bipolar and schizophrenia. It is also used in the production of some batteries and aircraft manufacture

O Oxygen: Makes up 20% of the Earth’s atmosphere and is the third most abundant element in the universe. Green and red in the Auroa Borealis are caused by oxygen atoms.

N Nitrogen: Nitorgen compounds are widely used in fertilisers but also in liquid form as a refrigerant gas. Nitrogen is used in laughing gas and the explosive TNT is a compound of nitrogen.

 

SALT

S Sulphur: The original Biblical brimstone, sulphur burns with a low blue flame (or as Milton put it in the opening lines of ‘Paradise Lost’ – ‘darkness visible’) Sulphur fires were used to combat cholera into the early 20th century.  The smell of the sea is due to a sulphurous gas (dimethyl sulphide) released by living microbes on the surface of the water.

Al Aluminium: A light, strong ubiquitous metal, this element was only isolated in the 1850s and was originally considered to be as rare as gold and silver because of the huge cost of extracting it. Emperor Napoleon III is said to have given a banquet at which his most honoured guests were given aluminium crockery (the rest got gold or silver).

Ts  Tennessine:  One of the most recently-named elements, Tennessine is a synthetic chemical element and is the second-heaviest known. Tennessine was officially named in December 2016 for the American state in which it was discovered. It joins California to become only the second American state named in the periodic table.

 

WORKS

W  Tungsten: One of the hardest known metals. Particularly prized by the Germans during WWII for making machinery and armour-piercing missiles. Its chemical symbol is W standing for the German name of the metal – ‘Wolfram’.  90% of Europe’s Tungsten is in Portugal.

O Oxygen – as above

Ra Radium: This highly radioactive element, famously discovered by Marie and Pierre Curie in 1989 was named for the Latin world ‘radius’ or ray. It is used to produce radon, a radioactive gas used to treat some types of cancer. The Curie’s laboratory notes are still too radioactive to handle.

K Potassium:  In 1807, Humphry Davy is said to have danced round the laboratory at delight on seeing the minute globules of potassium give off their now famous signature purple flame.  In its pure form, potassium is highly reactive but compounds of the element are found in salts such as potash, widely used as a fertiliser. The unexpected chemical symbol K derives from ‘kalium’, the medieval latin for potash.

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