Group (periodic table)

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In the periodic table of the elements, each numbered column is a group.

In chemistry, a group (also known as a family) is a column of elements in the periodic table of the chemical elements. There are 18 numbered groups in the periodic table, but the f-block columns (between groups 2 and 3) are not numbered. The elements in a group have similar physical or chemical characteristics of the outermost electron shells of their atoms (i.e., the same core charge), as most chemical properties are dominated by the orbital location of the outermost electron. There are three systems of group numbering. The modern numbering group 1 to group 18 is recommended by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC). It replaces two older naming schemes that were mutually confusing. Also, groups may be identified by their topmost element or have a specific name. For example, group 16 is variously described as oxygen group and chalcogen.

CAS and old IUPAC numbering[edit]

Two earlier group number systems exist: CAS (Chemical Abstracts Service) and old IUPAC. Both use numerals (Arabic or Roman) and letters A and B. Both systems agree on the numbers. The numbers indicate approximately the highest oxidation number of the elements in that group, and so indicate similar chemistry with other elements with the same numeral. The number proceeds in a linearly increasing fashion for the most part, once on the left of the table, and once on the right (see List of oxidation states of the elements), with some irregularities in the transition metals. However, the two systems use the letters differently. For example, potassium (K) has one valence electron. Therefore, it is located in group 1. Calcium (Ca) is in group 2, for it contains two valence electrons.

In the old IUPAC system the letters A and B were designated to the left (A) and right (B) part of the table, while in the CAS system the letters A and B are designated to main group elements (A) and transition elements (B). The old IUPAC system was frequently used in Europe while the CAS is most common in America. The new IUPAC scheme was developed to replace both systems as they confusingly used the same names to mean different things. The new system simply numbers the groups increasingly from left to right on the standard periodic table. The IUPAC proposal was first circulated in 1985 for public comments,[1] and was later included as part of the 1990 edition of the Nomenclature of Inorganic Chemistry.[2]

Group names[edit]

In history, several sets of group names have been used:[1][3]

Groups in the periodic table
Group numbera 1 2 3d 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18
pattern A-B-A)
old IUPAC (Europe,
pattern A-B)
Trivial name Alkali metals Alkaline earth metals Coin­age metalse Vola­tile metalse Icosa­gense Crys­tallo­gense Pnicto­gens Chal­co­gens Halo­gens Noble gases
Name by element Lith­ium group Beryl­lium group Scan­dium group Titan­ium group Vana­dium group Chro­mium group Man­ga­nese group Iron group Co­balt group Nickel group Cop­per group Zinc group Boron group Car­bon group Nitro­gen group Oxy­gen group Fluor­ine group Helium or Neon group
Period 1 Hc He
Period 2 Li Be B C N O F Ne
Period 3 Na Mg Al Si P S Cl Ar
Period 4 K Ca Sc Ti V Cr Mn Fe Co Ni Cu Zn Ga Ge As Se Br Kr
Period 5 Rb Sr Y d Zr Nb Mo Tc Ru Rh Pd Ag Cd In Sn Sb Te I Xe
Period 6 Cs Ba Lad Ce–Lu Hf Ta W Re Os Ir Pt Au Hg Tl Pb Bi Po At Rn
Period 7 Fr Ra Acd Th–Lr Rf Db Sg Bh Hs Mt Ds Rg Cn Nh Fl Mc Lv Ts Og
a Current, modern IUPAC group number.
b The noble gases had not yet been discovered at the time of Mendeleev's original table. Later (1902), Mendeleev accepted the evidence for the existence of the noble gases, and placed them in a separate "group 0".
c Hydrogen (H), while placed in column 1, is not considered to be in the group alkali metals.
d Group 3: Depending on the source, the entries below scandium and yttrium in this group include lutetium (Lu) and lawrencium (Lr), or lanthanum (La) and actinium (Ac), or the whole set of 15 lanthanides and 15 actinides. IUPAC has initiated a project to choose between the first two possibilities, so that the recommended definition of Group 3 will be either (1) the elements Sc, Y, Lu and Lr, or (2) the elements Sc, Y, La and Ac.[4]
e This group name is not recommended by IUPAC.
Name by element Trivial name
(*=IUPAC approved)
Group 1 IA IA lithium family alkali metals* Hydrogen resides within this column, but is not considered an alkali metal.
Group 2 IIA IIA beryllium family alkaline earth metals*
Group 3 IIIA IIIB scandium family Consisting of rare earth elements plus actinides
Group 4 IVA IVB titanium family
Group 5 VA VB vanadium family
Group 6 VIA VIB chromium family
Group 7 VIIA VIIB manganese family
Group 8 VIII VIIIB iron family
Group 9 VIII VIIIB cobalt family
Group 10 VIII VIIIB nickel family
Group 11 IB IB copper family coinage metals
Group 12 IIB IIB zinc family volatile metals
Group 13 IIIB IIIA boron family triels, icosagens triels from Greek tri (three, III)
Group 14 IVB IVA carbon family tetrels, crystallogens tetrels from Greek tetra (four, IV)
Group 15 VB VA nitrogen family pentels, pnictogens* pentels from Greek penta (five, V)
Group 16 VIB VIA oxygen family chalcogens*
Group 17 VIIB VIIA fluorine family halogens*
Group 18 Group 0 VIIIA helium family or neon family noble gases*, aerogens


  1. ^ a b Fluck, E. (1988). "New Notations in the Periodic Table" (PDF). Pure Appl. Chem. IUPAC. 60 (3): 431–436. doi:10.1351/pac198860030431. Retrieved 24 March 2012. 
  2. ^ Leigh, G. J. Nomenclature of Inorganic Chemistry: Recommendations 1990. Blackwell Science, 1990. ISBN 0-632-02494-1.
  3. ^ IUPAC (2005). "Nomenclature of inorganic chemistry" (PDF). 
  4. ^ "The constitution of group 3 of the periodic table". IUPAC. 2015-12-18. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Scerri, E. R. (2007). The periodic table, its story and its significance. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-530573-9.