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Chemistry LibreTexts

7: Periodic Properties of the Elements

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  • Last chapter, we presented the contemporary quantum mechanical model of the atom. In using this model to describe the electronic structures of the elements in order of increasing atomic number, we saw that periodic similarities in electron configuration correlate with periodic similarities in properties, which is the basis for the structure of the periodic table. For example, the noble gases have what is often called filled or closed-shell valence electron configurations. These closed shells are actually filled s and p subshells with a total of eight electrons, which are called octets; helium is an exception, with a closed 1s shell that has only two electrons. Because of their filled valence shells, the noble gases are generally unreactive. In contrast, the alkali metals have a single valence electron outside a closed shell and readily lose this electron to elements that require electrons to achieve an octet, such as the halogens. Thus because of their periodic similarities in electron configuration, atoms in the same column of the periodic table tend to form compounds with the same oxidation states and stoichiometries. Last chapter ended with the observation that, because all the elements in a column have the same valence electron configuration, the periodic table can be used to find the electron configuration of most of the elements at a glance.

    In this chapter, we explore the relationship between the electron configurations of the elements, as reflected in their arrangement in the periodic table, and their physical and chemical properties. In particular, we focus on the similarities between elements in the same column and on the trends in properties that are observed across horizontal rows or down vertical columns. By the end of this chapter, your understanding of these trends and relationships will provide you with clues as to why argon is used in incandescent light bulbs, why coal and wood burst into flames when they come in contact with pure F2, why aluminum was discovered so late despite being the third most abundant element in Earth’s crust, and why lithium is commonly used in batteries. We begin by expanding on the brief discussion of the history of the periodic table and describing how it was created many years before electrons had even been discovered, much less discussed in terms of shells, subshells, orbitals, and electron spin.

    • 7.1: Development of the Periodic Table
      The periodic table arranges the elements according to their electron configurations, such that elements in the same column have the same valence electron configurations. Periodic variations in size and chemical properties are important factors in dictating the types of chemical reactions the elements undergo and the kinds of chemical compounds they form. The modern periodic table was based on empirical correlations of properties such as atomic mass.
    • 7.2: Shielding and Effective Nuclear Charge
      The calculation of orbital energies in atoms or ions with more than one electron (multielectron atoms or ions) is complicated by repulsive interactions between the electrons. The concept of electron shielding, in which intervening electrons act to reduce the positive nuclear charge experienced by an electron, allows the use of hydrogen-like orbitals and an effective nuclear charge to describe electron distributions in more complex atoms or ions.
    • 7.3: Sizes of Atoms and Ions
      Ionic radii share the same vertical trend as atomic radii, but the horizontal trends differ due to differences in ionic charges. A variety of methods have been established to measure the size of a single atom or ion. The covalent atomic radius (rcov) is half the internuclear distance in a molecule with two identical atoms bonded to each other, whereas the metallic atomic radius (rmet) is defined as half the distance between the nuclei of two adjacent atoms in a metallic element.
    • 7.4: Ionization Energy
      Generally, the first ionization energy and electronegativity values increase diagonally from the lower left of the periodic table to the upper right, and electron affinities become more negative across a row. The energy required to remove successive electrons from an atom increases steadily, with a substantial increase occurring with the removal of an electron from a filled inner shell.
    • 7.5: Electron Affinities
      The electron affinity (EA) of an element is the energy change that occurs when an electron is added to a gaseous atom to give an anion. In general, elements with the most negative electron affinities (the highest affinity for an added electron) are those with the smallest size and highest ionization energies and are located in the upper right corner of the periodic table.
    • 7.6: Metals, Nonmetals, and Metalloids
      The elements can be classified as metals, nonmetals, or metalloids.
    • 7.7: Group Trends for the Active Metals
      The elements within the same group of the periodic table tend to exhibit similar physical and chemical properties. Four major factors affect reactivity of metals: nuclear charge, atomic radius, shielding effect and sublevel arrangement (of electrons).
    • 7.8: Group Trends for Selected Nonmetals
      Non-metallic character is the ability to be reduced (be an oxidizing agent), form acidic hydroxides, form covalent compounds with non-metals. These characteristics increase with a larger nuclear charge and smaller radius, with no increase in shielding. The most active non-metal would be the one farthest up and to the right -- not including the noble gases (non-reactive.)
    • 7.E: Periodic Properties of the Elements (Exercises)
      Problems and selection solutions to the chapter.
    • 7.S: Periodic Properties of the Elements (Summary)
      Summary for "Chapter 7: Periodic Properties of the Elements" textmap for "Chemistry: The central Science".