The 14th International Conference on

Miniaturized Systems for Chemistry and Life Sciences

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Grouping methods


Grouping methods

A group or family is a vertical column in the periodic table. Groups usually have more significant periodic trends than periods and blocks, explained below. Modern quantum mechanical theories of atomic structure explain group trends by proposing that elements within the same group generally have the same electron configurations in their valence shell. Consequently, elements in the same group tend to have a shared chemistry and exhibit a clear trend in properties with increasing atomic number. In some parts of the periodic table, such as the d-block and the f-block, horizontal similarities can be as important as, or more pronounced than, vertical similarities.

Some of these groups have been given trivial (unsystematic) names, as seen in the table below, although some are rarely used. Groups 3–10 have no trivial names and are referred to simply by their group numbers or by the name of the first member of their group (such as "the scandium group" for group 3), since they display fewer similarities and/or vertical trends.

Elements in the same period show trends in atomic radius, ionization energy, electron affinity, and electronegativity. Moving left to right across a period, atomic radius usually decreases. This occurs because each successive element has an added proton and electron, which causes the electron to be drawn closer to the nucleus. This decrease in atomic radius also causes the ionization energy to increase when moving from left to right across a period. The more tightly bound an element is, the more energy is required to remove an electron. Electronegativity increases in the same manner as ionization energy because of the pull exerted on the electrons by the nucleus. Electron affinity also shows a slight trend across a period. Metals (left side of a period) generally have a lower electron affinity than nonmetals (right side of a period), with the exception of the noble gases.

A period is a horizontal row in the periodic table. Although groups generally have more significant periodic trends, there are regions where horizontal trends are more significant than vertical group trends, such as the f-block, where the lanthanides and actinides form two substantial horizontal series of elements.

Specific regions of the periodic table can be referred to as blocks in recognition of the sequence in which the electron shells of the elements are filled. Each block is named according to the subshell in which the "last" electron notionally resides. The s-block comprises the first two groups (alkali metals and alkaline earth metals) as well as hydrogen and helium. The p-block comprises the last six groups, which are groups 13 to 18 in IUPAC group numbering (3A to 8A in American group numbering) and contains, among other elements, all of the metalloids. The d-block comprises groups 3 to 12 (or 3B to 2B in American group numbering) and contains all of the transition metals. The f-block, often offset below the rest of the periodic table, has no group numbers and comprises lanthanides and actinides.

According to their shared physical and chemical properties, the elements can be classified into the major categories of metals, metalloids and nonmetals. Metals are generally shiny, highly conducting solids that form alloys with one another and salt-like ionic compounds with nonmetals (other than noble gases). A majority of nonmetals are coloured or colourless insulating gases; nonmetals that form compounds with other nonmetals feature covalent bonding. In between metals and nonmetals are metalloids, which have intermediate or mixed properties.

Metal and nonmetals can be further classified into subcategories that show a gradation from metallic to non-metallic properties, when going left to right in the rows. The metals may be subdivided into the highly reactive alkali metals, through the less reactive alkaline earth metals, lanthanides and actinides, via the archetypal transition metals, and ending in the physically and chemically weak post-transition metals. Nonmetals may be simply subdivided into the polyatomic nonmetals, being nearer to the metalloids and show some incipient metallic character; the essentially nonmetallic diatomic nonmetals, nonmetallic and the almost completely inert, monatomic noble gases. Specialized groupings such as refractory metals and noble metals, are examples of subsets of transition metals, also known and occasionally denoted.

Placing elements into categories and subcategories based just on shared properties is imperfect. There is a large disparity of properties within each category with notable overlaps at the boundaries, as is the case with most classification schemes. Beryllium, for example, is classified as an alkaline earth metal although its amphoteric chemistry and tendency to mostly form covalent compounds are both attributes of a chemically weak or post-transition metal. Radon is classified as a nonmetallic noble gas yet has some cationic chemistry that is characteristic of metals. Other classification schemes are possible such as the division of the elements into mineralogical occurrence categories, or crystalline structures. Categorizing the elements in this fashion dates back to at least 1869 when Hinrichs wrote that simple boundary lines could be placed on the periodic table to show elements having shared properties, such as metals, nonmetals, or gaseous elements.


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