Skip to main content
[ "article:topic-guide", "showtoc:no", "license:ccbyncsa" ]
Chemistry LibreTexts

22: Chemistry of the Nonmetals

  • Page ID
  • The line that divides metals from nonmetals in the periodic table crosses the p block diagonally. As a result, the differences between metallic and nonmetallic properties are evident within each group, even though all members of each group have the same valence electron configuration. The p block is the only portion of the periodic table where we encounter the inert-pair effect. Moreover, as with the s-block elements, the chemistry of the lightest member of each group in the p block differs sharply from that of its heavier congeners but is similar to that of the element immediately below and to the right of it in the next group. Thus diagonal similarities in chemistry are seen across the p block.

    A nonmetal is a chemical element that mostly lacks metallic attributes. Physically, nonmetals tend to be highly volatile (easily vaporized), have low elasticity, and are good insulators of heat and electricity; chemically, they tend to have high ionization energy and electronegativity values, and gain or share electrons when they react with other elements or compounds. Seventeen elements are generally classified as nonmetals; most are gases (hydrogen, helium, nitrogen, oxygen, fluorine, neon, chlorine, argon, krypton, xenon and radon); one is a liquid (bromine); and a few are solids (carbon, phosphorus, sulfur, selenium, and iodine).

    As you study the periodic trends in properties and the reactivity of the elements in groups 13–18, you will learn how “cobalt blue” glass, rubies, and sapphires are made and why the US military became interested in using boron hydrides as rocket fuels but then abandoned its effort. You will also discover the source of diamonds on Earth, why silicon-based life-forms are likely to exist only in science fiction, and why most compounds with N–N bonds are potentially explosive. You will also learn why phosphorus can cause a painful and lethal condition known as “phossy jaw” and why selenium is used in photocopiers.

    • 22.1: General Concepts: Periodic Trends and Reactions
      The chemistry of the third-period element in a group is most representative of the chemistry of the group because the chemistry of the second-period elements is dominated by their small radii, energetically unavailable d orbitals, and tendency to form π bonds with other atoms.
    • 22.2: Hydrogen
      Hydrogen can lose an electron to form a proton, gain an electron to form a hydride ion, or form a covalent bond or polar covalent electron-pair bond. The three isotopes of hydrogen—protium (1H or H), deuterium (2H or D), and tritium (3H or T)—have different physical properties. Deuterium and tritium can be used as tracers, substances that enable biochemists to follow the path of a molecule through an organism or a cell.
    • 22.3: Group 18: Noble Gases
      The noble gases are characterized by their high ionization energies and low electron affinities. Potent oxidants are needed to oxidize the noble gases to form compounds. The noble gases have a closed-shell valence electron configuration. The ionization energies of the noble gases decrease with increasing atomic number. Only highly electronegative elements can form stable compounds (e.g. F and O) with the noble gases in positive oxidation states without being oxidized themselves.
    • 22.4: Group 17: The Halogens
      The halogens are highly reactive. All halogens have relatively high ionization energies, and the acid strength and oxidizing power of their oxoacids decreases down the group. The halogens are so reactive that none is found in nature as the free element; instead, all but iodine are found as halide salts with the X− ion. Their chemistry is exclusively that of nonmetals. Consistent with periodic trends, ionization energies decrease down the group.
    • 22.5: Oxygen
      Oxygen is an element that is widely known by the general public because of the large role it plays in sustaining life. Without oxygen, animals would be unable to breathe and would consequently die. Oxygen is not only important to supporting life, but plays an important role in many other chemical reactions. Oxygen is the most common element in the earth's crust and makes up about 20% of the air we breathe. Historically the discovery of oxygen as an element essential for combustion.
    • 22.6: The Other Group 16 Elements: S, Se, Te, and Po
      The chalcogens have no stable metallic elements. The tendency to catenate, the strength of single bonds, and the reactivity all decrease moving down the group. Because the electronegativity of the chalcogens decreases down the group, so does their tendency to acquire two electrons to form compounds in the −2 oxidation state. The lightest member, oxygen, has the greatest tendency to form multiple bonds with other elements.
    • 22.7: Nitrogen
      Nitrogen behaves chemically like nonmetals, Nitrogen forms compounds in nine different oxidation states. Nitrogen does not form stable catenated compounds because of repulsions between lone pairs of electrons on adjacent atoms, but it does form multiple bonds with other second-period atoms. Nitrogen reacts with electropositive elements to produce solids that range from covalent to ionic in character.
    • 22.8: The Other Group 15 Elements: P, AS, Sb, and Bi
      The reactivity of the heavier group 15 elements decreases down the group, as does the stability of their catenated compounds. In group 15, nitrogen and phosphorus behave chemically like nonmetals, arsenic and antimony behave like semimetals, and bismuth behaves like a metal. The stability of the +5 oxidation state decreases from phosphorus to bismuth because of the inert-pair effect. Due to their higher electronegativity, the lighter pnicogens form compounds in the −3 oxidation state.
    • 22.9: Carbon
      The stability of the carbon tetrahalides decreases as the halogen increases in size because of poor orbital overlap and steric crowding. Carbon forms three kinds of carbides with less electronegative elements: ionic carbides, which contain metal cations and C4− (methide) or C22− (acetylide) anions; interstitial carbides, which are characterized by covalent metal–carbon interactions and are among the hardest substances known; and covalent carbides, which have three-dimensional covalent network st
    • 22.10: The Other Group 14 Elements: Si, Ge, Sn, and Pb
      The group 14 elements show the greatest diversity in chemical behavior of any group; covalent bond strengths decease with increasing atomic size, and ionization energies are greater than expected, increasing from C to Pb. Because the covalent bond strength decreases with increasing atomic size and greater-than-expected ionization energies due to an increase in Zeff, the stability of the +2 oxidation state increases from carbon to lead.
    • 22.11: Boron
      Elemental boron is a semimetal that is remarkably unreactive. Boron forms unique and intricate structures that contain multicenter bonds, in which a pair of electrons holds together three or more atoms. Elemental boron can be induced to react with many nonmetallic elements to give binary compounds that have a variety of applications.
    • 22.E: Chemistry of the Nonmetals (Exercises)
      These are homework exercises to accompany the Textmap created for "Chemistry: The Central Science" by Brown et al.
    • 22.S: Chemistry of the Nonmetals (Summary)
      This the summary for chapter 22 of the Textmap created for "Chemistry: The Central Science" by Brown et al.