4. Periodic Table

Features of the Periodic Table

Elements that have similar chemical properties are grouped in columns called groups (or families). As well as being numbered, some of these groups have names—for example, alkali metals (the first column of elements), alkaline earth metals (the second column of elements), halogens (the next-to-last column of elements), and noble gases (the last column of elements).

Each row of elements on the periodic table is called a period. Periods have different lengths; the first period has only 2 elements (hydrogen and helium), while the second and third periods have 8 elements each. The fourth and fifth periods have 18 elements each, and later periods are so long that a segment from each is removed and placed beneath the main body of the table.

Certain elemental properties become apparent in a survey of the periodic table as a whole. Every element can be classified as either a metal, a nonmetal, or a semimetal, as shown in Figure “Types of Elements”. A metal is a substance that is shiny, typically (but not always) silvery in color, and an excellent conductor of electricity and heat. Metals are also malleable (they can be beaten into thin sheets) and ductile (they can be drawn into thin wires). A nonmetal is typically dull and a poor conductor of electricity and heat. Solid nonmetals are also very brittle. As shown in Figure “Types of Elements”, metals occupy the left three-fourths of the periodic table, while nonmetals (except for hydrogen) are clustered in the upper right-hand corner of the periodic table. The elements with properties intermediate between those of metals and nonmetals are called semimetals (or metalloids). Elements adjacent to the bold line in the right-hand portion of the periodic table have semimetal properties.


Another way to categorize the elements of the periodic table is shown in Figure b “Special Names for Sections of the Periodic Table”. The first two columns on the left and the last six columns on the right are called the main group elements. The ten-column block between these columns contains the transition metals. The two rows beneath the main body of the periodic table contain the inner transition metals. The elements in these two rows are also referred to as, respectively, the lanthanide metals and the actinide metals.

Figure b. Special Names for Sections of the Periodic Table. Some sections of the periodic table have special names. The elements lithium, sodium, potassium, rubidium, cesium, and francium are collectively known as alkali metals.

The periodic table is organized on the basis of similarities in elemental properties, but what explains these similarities? It turns out that the shape of the periodic table reflects the filling of subshells with electrons, as shown in Figure c “The Shape of the Periodic Table”. Starting with the first period and going from left to right, the table reproduces the order of filling of the electron subshells in atoms. Furthermore, elements in the same column share the same valence shell electron configuration. For example, all elements in the first column have a single s electron in their valence shells, so their electron configurations can be described as ns1 (where n represents the shell number). This last observation is crucial. Chemistry is largely the result of interactions between the valence electrons of different atoms. Thus, atoms that have the same valence shell electron configuration will have similar chemistry.image

Figure c, The Shape of the Periodic Table. The shape of the periodic table reflects the order in which electron shells and subshells fill with electrons.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *