6.12: Halogens


How do you study a gas that does not exist as such in nature?

It’s not as easy as you think. Fluorine is so reactive that we cannot find it free in nature. None of the halogens exist free in nature (unlike some of the metals such as gold and silver) because they are very reactive. The video below shows how violently elemental fluorine reacts with other materials.

Halogens

Some elements are much more reactive than others. The Group I (red) and Group II (tan) elements can easily lose electrons during a reaction. Elements of other groups are much more likely to accept electrons as they react.

The elements of Group VIIA (new Group 17 - fluorine, chlorine, bromine, iodine, and astatine) are called the halogens (yellow column).  The term “halogen” means “salt-former” because these elements will readily react with alkali metal and alkaline earth metals to form halide salts. The halogens all have the general electron configuration $$ns^2np^5$$, giving them seven valence electrons. They are one electron short of having the full outer $$s$$ and $$p$$ sublevel, which makes them very reactive.

Physical Properties of Halogens

As elements, chlorine and fluorine are gases at room temperature, bromine is a dark orange liquid, and iodine is a dark purple-gray solid. Astatine is so rare that its properties are mostly unknown. In the picture below we see chlorine gas on the left (green), bromine solid and vapor in the middle (orange), and solid iodine (grey) on the right. Fluorine is not shown in the picture below because it is too corrosive and will destroy the glass container.

None of these elements are found free in nature because of their reactivity. Fluorine is found in combination with cations in several minerals. Chlorine is found in table salt, in the oceans (which are about 2% chloride ion by weight) and in lakes such as the Great Salt Lake in Utah. Small amounts of bromide and iodide salts can be found in the oceans and in brine wells in several states.

Watch the following two video experiments of $$p$$ block elements:

This first video is of bromine reacting with aluminum.

This second video discusses the properties of halogens and shows a few more reactions they can participate in.

Summary

• The halogens all have seven electrons in their outer shells.
• The electron configuration in the outer shell is $$ns^2np^5$$.
• As the atomic number increases, the reactivity of the halogens decreases.
• Fluorine and chlorine exist as gases at room temperature, while bromine is a liquid, and iodine is a solid.

Review

1. Pick two elements that are halogens. For each, write the name, chemical symbol, and atomic weight.
2. What does the term “halogen” mean?
3. What is the outer shell electron configuration for the halogens?
4. What is the physical state of each halogen at room temperature?
5. Where are the halogens found?

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