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Group 3 Elemental Properties

As shown in Table 1.1.1, the observed trends in the properties of the group 3 elements are similar to those of groups 1 and 2. Due to their ns2(n − 1)d1 valence electron configurations, the chemistry of all four elements is dominated by the +3 oxidation state formed by losing all three valence electrons. As expected based on periodic trends, these elements are highly electropositive metals and powerful reductants, with La (and Ac) being the most reactive. In keeping with their highly electropositive character, the group 3 metals react with water to produce the metal hydroxide and hydrogen gas:

$2M_{(s)} + 6H_2O_{(l)} \rightarrow 2M(OH)_{3(s)} + 3H_{2(g)}\tag{1.1.1}$

Moreover, all dissolve readily in aqueous acid to produce hydrogen gas and a solution of the hydrated M3+(aq) ion.

Commercial uses of the group 3 metals are limited, but “mischmetal,” a mixture of lanthanides containing about 40% La, is used as an additive to improve the properties of steel and make flints for cigarette lighters.