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September–November 2020

‘Nuclear’ periodic table announced

Physicists from Kyoto University have unveiled a new periodic table that provides a different perspective on the building blocks of the universe. While the traditional table is based on the behaviour of electrons in an atom, this new table is based on protons.

The team’s new Nucletouch table – also available as a 3D model – was announced recently in Foundations of Chemistry (

The principle of atomic ‘magic numbers’ of the noble gases can also be applied to protons. Imagining that protons in a nucleus exist in orbits may seem like a stretch, but the discovery of the concept was awarded the 1963 Nobel Prize in Physics.

Protons have different stable magic numbers: 2, 8, 20, 28, and so on. The Nucletouch table places these ‘magic nuclei’ of protons at its centre, providing a new perspective on the elements.

‘Similar to electrons, when nuclear orbits are filled with protons, they form stable nuclei, analogous to the noble-gas elements’, said collaborator Kouichi Hagino.

‘In our nuclear periodic table, we also see that nuclei tend to be spherically shaped near the magic numbers, but deformed as you move away from them.’

The team made the table to highlight alternative ways to illustrate the laws of nature, and hopes that enthusiasts and academics alike will learn something from this fresh new look at an old friend.


The nuclear periodic table is based on atomic ‘magic numbers’.

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