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ELEMENTS

 

What are elements?

All matter is made up of elements which are fundamental substances which cannot be broken down by chemical means. There are 92 elements that occur naturally. The elements hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen and oxygen are the elements that make up most living organisms. Some other elements found in living organisms are: magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, sodium, potassium.

By the late 1800's many elements had already been discovered. The scientist Dmitri Mendeleev, a Russian chemist, proposed an arrangement of know elements based on their atomic mass.

The modern arrangement of the elements is known as the Periodic Table of Elements and is arranged according to the atomic number of elements.

Note that an element:

  • consists of only one kind of atom,
  • cannot be broken down into a simpler type of matter by either physical or chemical means, and
  • can exist as either atoms (e.g. argon) or molecules (e.g., nitrogen).

 

The periodic table of the chemical elements is a tabular display of the known chemical elements. The elements are arranged by electron structure so that many chemical properties vary regularly across the table. Each element is listed by its atomic number and chemical symbol.

The standard table provides the necessary basics. There are also other methods for displaying the chemical elements for more details or different perspectives.Standard periodic table

Group ’ 1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18
Period
1 1
H

2
He
2 3
Li
4
Be


5
B
6
C
7
N
8
O
9
F
10
Ne
3 11
Na
12
Mg


13
Al
14
Si
15
P
16
S
17
Cl
18
Ar
4 19
K
20
Ca

21
Sc
22
Ti
23
V
24
Cr
25
Mn
26
Fe
27
Co
28
Ni
29
Cu
30
Zn
31
Ga
32
Ge
33
As
34
Se
35
Br
36
Kr
5 37
Rb
38
Sr

39
Y
40
Zr
41
Nb
42
Mo
43
Tc
44
Ru
45
Rh
46
Pd
47
Ag
48
Cd
49
In
50
Sn
51
Sb
52
Te
53
I
54
Xe
6 55
Cs
56
Ba
*
71
Lu
72
Hf
73
Ta
74
W
75
Re
76
Os
77
Ir
78
Pt
79
Au
80
Hg
81
Tl
82
Pb
83
Bi
84
Po
85
At
86
Rn
7 87
 Fr 
88
Ra
**
103
Lr
104
Rf
105
Db
106
Sg
107
Bh
108
Hs
109
Mt
110
Ds
111
Uuu
112
Uub
113
Uut
114
Uuq
115
Uup
116
Uuh
117
Uus
118
Uuo

* Lanthanides 57
La
58
Ce
59
Pr
60
Nd
61
Pm
62
Sm
63
Eu
64
Gd
65
Tb
66
Dy
67
Ho
68
Er
69
Tm
70
Yb
** Actinides 89
Ac
90
Th
91
Pa
92
U
93
Np
94
Pu
95
Am
96
Cm
97
Bk
98
Cf
99
Es
100
Fm
101
Md
102
No


Color coding for atomic numbers

Chemical Series of the Periodic Table
Alkali metals Alkaline earths Lanthanide Actinides Transition metals
Poor metals Metalloids Nonmetals Halogens Noble gases
  • Elements numbered in blue are liquids at standard temperature and pressure (STP);
  • those in green are gases at STP;
  • those in black are solid at STP;
  • those in red are synthetic (all are solid at STP).
  • those in gray have not yet been discovered (they also have muted fill colors indicating the likely chemical series they would fall under).

Groups

A group is a vertical column in the periodic table of the elements. There are 18 groups in the standard periodic table. Elements in a group have similar configurations of their valence shell electrons, which gives them similar properties.

Group numbers

There are three systems of group numbers; one using Arabic numerals and the other two using Roman numerals. The Roman numeral names are the original traditional names of the groups; the Arabic numeral names are a newer naming scheme recommended by International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC). The IUPAC scheme was developed to replace both older Roman numeral systems as they confusingly used the same names to mean different things.

 

Explanation of the structure of the periodic table

The number of electron shells an atom has determines what period it belongs to. Each shell is divided into different subshells, which as atomic number increases are filled in roughly this order:

 
1s 2s 2p 3s 3p 4s 3d 4p 5s 4d 5p 6s 4f 5d 6p 7s 5f 6d 7p 8s 5g 6f 7d 8p ... 

Hence the structure of the table. Since the outermost electrons determine chemical properties, those tend to be similar within groups. Elements adjacent to one another within a group have similar physical properties, despite their significant differences in mass. Elements adjacent to one another within a period have similar mass but different properties.

For example, very near to nitrogen (N) in the second period of the chart are carbon (C) and oxygen (O). Despite their similarities in mass (they differ by only a few atomic mass units), they have extremely different properties, as can be seen by looking at their allotropes: diatomic oxygen is a gas that supports burning, diatomic nitrogen is a gas that does not support burning, and carbon is a solid which can be burnt (yes, diamonds can be burnt!).

In contrast, very near to chlorine (Cl) in the next-to-last group in the chart (the halogens) are fluorine (F) and bromine (Br). Despite their dramatic differences in mass within the group, their allotropes have very similar properties: They are all highly corrosive (meaning they combine readily with metals to form metal halide salts); chlorine and fluorine are gases, while bromine is a very low-boiling liquid; chlorine and bromine at least are highly colored.

History

History of the periodic table

The original table was created without a knowledge of the inner structure of atoms: if one orders the elements by atomic mass, and then plots certain other properties against atomic mass, one sees an undulation or periodicity to these properties as a function of atomic mass. The first to recognize these regularities was the German chemist Johann Wolfgang Döbereiner who, in 1829, noticed a number of triads of similar elements:

Some triads
Element   Atomic mass Density
chlorine   35.5 0.00156 g/cm3
bromine   79.9 0.00312 g/cm3
iodine   126.9 0.00495 g/cm3
calcium   40.1 1.55 g/cm3
strontium   87.6 2.6 g/cm3
barium   137 3.5 g/cm3
 

 

This was followed by the English chemist John Alexander Reina Newlands, who in 1865 noticed that the elements of similar type recurred at intervals of eight, which he likened to the octaves of music, though his law of octaves was ridiculed by his contemporaries. Finally, in 1869, the German Lothar Meyer and the Russian chemist Dmitry Ivanovich Mendeleev almost simultaneously developed the first periodic table, arranging the elements by mass. However, Mendeleev plotted a few elements out of strict mass sequence in order to make a better match to the properties of their neighbours in the table, corrected mistakes in the values of several atomic masses, and predicted the existence and properties of a few new elements in the empty cells of his table. Mendeleev was later vindicated by the discovery of the electronic structure of the elements in the late 19th and early 20th century.


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