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Chemistry LibreTexts

7.8: Group Trends for Selected Nonmetals

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  • Skills to Develop

    • To gain a descriptive understanding of the chemical properties of Hydrogen, the group 16, 17 and 18 elements.

    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.) 


    Hydrogen has a 1s1 electron configuration and is placed above the alkali metal group. Hydrogen is a non-metal, which occurs as a gas (H2) under normal conditions.

    • Its ionization energy is considerably higher (due to lack of shielding, and thus higher \(Z_{eff}\)) than the rest of the Group 1 metals and is more like the nonmetals
    • Hydrogen generally reacts with other nonmetals to form molecular compounds (typically highly exothermic)
    • Hydrogen reacts with active metals to form metal hydrides which contain the H- hydride ion:

    \[2Na_{(s)} + H_{2(g)} \rightarrow 2NaH_{(s)} \label{7.8.1}\]

    • Hydrogen can also lose an electron to yield the aqueous \(H^+_{(aq)}\) hydronium ion.

    Group 16: The Oxygen Family

    As we proceed down group 16 the elements become more metallic in nature:

    • Oxygen is a gas, the rest are solids
    • Oxygen, sulfur and selenium are nonmetals
    • Tellurium is a metalloid with some metal properties
    • Polonium is a metal

    Oxygen can be found in two molecular forms, O2 and O3 (ozone). These two forms of oxygen are called allotropes (different forms of the same element in the same state)

    \[3O_{2(g)} \rightarrow 2O_{3(g)}\;\;\; \Delta H = 284.6\; kJ / mol \label{7.8.2}\]

    the reaction is endothermic, thus ozone is less stable that O2

    Oxygen has a great tendency to attract electrons from other elements (i.e. to "oxidize" them)

    • Oxygen in combination with metals is almost always present as the O2- ion (which has noble gas electronic configuration and is particularly stable)
    • Two other oxygen anions are observed: peroxide (O22-) and superoxide (O2-)


    Sulfur also exists in several allotropic forms, the most common stable allotrope is the yellow solid S8 (an 8 member ring of sulfur atoms). Like oxygen, sulfur has a tendency to gain electrons from other elements, and to form sulfides (which contain the S2- ion). This is particular true for the active metals:

    \[16Na_{(s)} + S_{8(s)} \rightarrow 8Na_2S_{(s)}\label{7.8.3}\]

    Note: most sulfur in nature is present as a metal-sulfur compound. Sulfur chemistry is more complex than that of oxygen.

    Group 17: The Halogens

    "Halogen" is derived from the Greek meaning "salt formers"

    • Astatine is radioactive and rare, and some of its properties are unknown
    • All the halogens are nonmetals
    • Each element consists of diatomic molecules under standard conditions

    Colors of diatomic halogens: (not flame colors)

    • Fluorine: pale yellow
    • Chlorine: yellow green
    • Bromine: reddish brown
    • Iodine: violet vapor

    The halogens have some of the most negative electron affinities (i.e. large exothermic process in gaining an electron from another element)

    \[X_2 + 2e^- \rightarrow 2X^-\label{7.8.4}\]

    • Fluorine and chlorine are the most reactive halogens (highest electron affinities). Fluorine will remove electrons from almost any substance (including several of the noble gases from Group 18).


    The chemistry of the halogens is dominated by their tendency to gain electrons from other elements (forming a halide ion)

    In 1992, 22.3 billion pounds of chlorine was produced. Both chlorine and sodium can be produced by electrolysis of molten sodium chloride (table salt). The electricity is used to strip electrons from chloride ions and transfer them to sodium ions to produce chlorine gas and solid sodium metal

    Chlorine reacts slowly with water to produce hydrochloric acid and hypochlorous acid:

    \[Cl_{2(g)} + H_2O_{(l)} \rightarrow HCl_{(aq)} + HOCl_{(aq)}\label{7.8}.5\]

    Hypochlorous acid is a disinfectant, thus chlorine is a useful addition to swimming pool water

    The halogens react with most metals to form ionic halides:

    \[Cl_{2(g)} + 2Na_{(s)} \rightarrow 2NaCl_{(s)}\label{7.8.6}\]

    Group 18: The Noble Gases

    • Nonmetals
    • Gases at room temperature
    • monoatomic
    • completely filled 's' and 'p' subshells
    • large first ionization energy, but this decreases somewhat as we move down the group

    Rn is highly radioactive and some of its properties are unknown

    They are exceptionally unreactive. It was reasoned that if any of these were reactive, they would most likely be Rn, Xe or Kr where the first ionization energies were lower.


    In order to react, they would have to be combined with an element which had a high tendency to remove electrons from other atoms. Such as fluorine.

    Compounds of noble gases to date:

    \(XeF_2\) \(XeF_4\) \(XeF_6\)

    only one compound with Kr has been made


    No compounds observed with He, Ne, or Ar; they are truly inert gases.