Block (periodic table)

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A long periodic table showing, from left to right: the s-, d-, f-, and p-blocks. The f-block, normally shown as a footnote, here splits the d-block into two; compare this situation with the s-block, which also has two portions.

A block of the periodic table is a set of chemical elements having their differentiating electrons predominately in the same type of atomic orbital. A differentiating electron is the electron that differentiates an element from the previous one. For example, sodium [Ne] 3s1 when compared to neon [He] 2s22p6 has a difference of one s-electron. The term appears to have been first used by Charles Janet.[1] Each block is named after its characteristic orbital: s-block; p-block; d-block; and f-block.

The block names (s, p, d and f) are derived from the spectroscopic notation for the value of an electron's azimuthal quantum number: sharp (0), principal (1), diffuse (2), or fundamental (3). Succeeding notations proceed in alphabetical order, as g, h, etc.

Characteristics[edit]

The division into blocks is justified by their distinctive nature: s is characterized, except in H and He, by highly electropositive metals; p by a range of very distinctive metals and non-metals, many of them essential to life; d by metals with multiple oxidation states; f by metals so similar that their separation is problematic. Useful statements about the elements can be made on the basis of the block they belong to and their position in it, for example highest oxidation state, density, melting point… Electronegativity is rather systematically distributed across and between blocks.

PJ Stewart
In Foundations of Chemistry, 2018[2]

There is an approximate correspondence between this nomenclature of blocks, based on electronic configuration, and sets of elements based on chemical properties. The s-block and p-block together are usually considered main-group elements, the d-block corresponds to the transition metals, and the f-block encompasses nearly all of the lanthanides (like lanthanum) and the actinides (like actinium). Not everyone agrees on the exact membership of each set of elements. For example, the group 12 elements Zn, Cd and Hg are as often regarded as main group, rather than transition group, because they are chemically and physically more similar to the p-block elements than the other d-block elements. The group 3 elements are sometimes considered main group elements due to their similarities to the s-block elements. Groups (columns) in the f-block (between groups 3 and 4) are not numbered.

Helium is from the s-block, with its outer (and only) electrons in the 1s atomic orbital, although its chemical properties are more similar to the p-block noble gases in group 18 due to its full shell.

Sometimes the f-block is considered to be between groups 2 and 3 instead of 3 and 4, which means that lanthanum and actinium are f-block elements, and lutetium and lawrencium are d-block elements instead located under ytttrium.

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
57
La
1 asterisk 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
89
Ac
1 asterisk 104
Rf
105
Db
106
Sg
107
Bh
108
Hs
109
Mt
110
Ds
111
Rg
112
Cn
113
Nh
114
Fl
115
Mc
116
Lv
117
Ts
118
Og

1 asterisk 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
71
Lu
1 asterisk 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
103
Lr

s-block[edit]

…Na, K, Mg and Ca are essential in biological systems. Some…other s-block elements are used in medicine (e.g. Li and Ba) and/or occur as minor but useful contaminants in Ca bio-minerals e.g. Sr…These metals display only one stable oxidation state [+1 or +2]. This enables [their]…ions to move around the cell without…danger of being oxidised or reduced.

Wilkins RG and Wilkins PC (2003)
The role of calcium and comparable cations in animal behaviour, RSC, Cambridge, p. 1

The s-block is on the left side of the conventional periodic table and is composed of elements from the first two columns, the nonmetals hydrogen and helium and the alkali metals (in group 1) and alkaline earth metals (group 2). Their general valence configuration is ns1–2. Helium is an s-element, but nearly always finds its place to the far right in group 18, above the p-element neon. Each row of the table has two s-elements.

The metals of the s-block (from the second row onwards) are mostly soft and have generally low melting and boiling points. Most impart colour to a flame.

Chemically, all s-elements except helium are highly reactive. Metals of the s-block form ionic compounds with the halogen nonmetals in group 17.

p-block[edit]

The p-block is on the right side of the standard periodic table and encompasses elements in groups 13 to 18. Their general electronic configuration is ns2 np1–6. Helium, though being the first element in group 18, is not included in the p-block. Each row of the table has a place for six p-elements except for the first row (which has none).

Aluminium (metal), atomic number 13
Silicon (metalloid), atomic number 14
Phosphorus (nonmetal), atomic number 15

This block is the only one having all three types of elements: metals, nonmetals, and metalloids. The p-block elements can be described on a group-by-group basis as: group 13, the icosagens; 14, the crystallogens; 15, the pnictogens; 16, the chalcogens; 17, the halogens; and 18, the helium group, composed of the noble gases and oganesson. Alternatively, the p-block can be described as containing post-transition metals; metalloids; reactive nonmetals including the halogens; and noble gases.

The p-block elements are unified by the fact that their valence (outermost) electrons are in the p orbital. The p orbital consists of six lobed shapes coming from a central point at evenly spaced angles. The p orbital can hold a maximum of six electrons, hence there are six columns in the p-block. Elements in column 13, the first column of the p-block, have one p-orbital electron. Elements in column 14, the second column of the p-block, have two p-orbital electrons. The trend continues this way until column 18, which has six p-orbital electrons.

The block is a stronghold of the octet rule, especially in groups 14–17. The p-block elements show variable oxidation states usually differing by multiples of two. The reactivity of elements in a group generally decreases downwards. This is not case in group 18, where reactivity increases in the following sequence: Ne < He < Ar < Kr < Xe < Rn < Og.

The corrosive nonmetals of the p-block (F, Cl, Br, and I) tend to form ionic compounds with metals; the remaining reactive nonmetals tend to form covalent compounds. The metalloids (B, Si, Ge, As, Sb, and At) tend to form either covalent compounds or alloys with metals.

d-block[edit]

The…elements show a horizontal similarity in their physical and chemical properties as well as the usual vertical relationship. This horizontal similarity is so marked that the chemistry of the first…series…is often discussed separately from that of the second and third series, which are more similar to one another than to the first series.

Kneen WR, Rogers MJW, and Simpson P 1972
Chemistry: Facts, patterns, and principles, Addison-Wesley, London, pp. 487−489 

The d-block is in the middle of the periodic table and encompasses elements from groups 3 to 12; it starts in the 4th period. Most or all of these elements are also known as transition metals because they occupy a transitional zone in properties, between the strongly electropositive metals of groups 1 and 2, and the weakly electropositive metals of groups 13 to 16. Group 3 or group 12, while still counted as d-block metals, are sometimes not counted as transition metals because they do not show the chemical properties characteristic of transition metals, for example, multiple oxidation states and coloured compounds.

The d-block elements are all metals mostly having one or more chemically active d-orbital electrons. Because there is a relatively small difference in the energy of the different d-orbital electrons, the number of electrons participating in chemical bonding can vary. The d-block elements have a tendency to exhibit two or more oxidation states, differing by multiples of one. The most common oxidation states are +2 and +3; Cr, Fe, Mo, Ru, W, and Os can have oxidation numbers as low as −4; Ir holds the singular distinction of being capable of achieving an oxidation state of +9.

The d-orbitals (four shaped as four-leaf clovers, and the tenth as a dumbbell with a ring around it) can contain up to five pairs of electrons; the block therefore takes up ten columns in the periodic table.

f-block[edit]

Because of their complex electronic structure, the significant electron correlation effects, and the large relativistic contributions, the f-block elements are probably the most challenging group of elements for electronic structure theory. 

Dolg M 2015 (ed.)
Computational methods in lanthanide and actinide chemistry, John Wiley & Sons, Chichester, p. xvii

The f-block appears as a footnote in a standard 18-column table but is located at the center-left of a 32-column full width table. While these elements are generally not considered part of any group some authors consider them to be part of group 3. They are sometimes called inner transition metals because they provide a transition between the s-block and d-block in the 6th and 7th row (period), in the same way that the d-block transition metals provide a transitional bridge between the s-block and p-block in the 4th and 5th rows.

The f-block elements come in two series, in periods 6 and 7. All are metals. The f-orbital electrons are largely inactive in determining the chemistry of the period 6 f-block elements. Their chemical properties are mostly determined by a single d and two s-orbital electrons. Consequently, there is less chemical variability within this series of elements. Among the early period 7 f-block elements, the energies of the 5f, 7s and 6d shells are quite similar; consequently these elements tend to show as much chemical variability as their transition metals analogues. The later f-block elements behave more like their period 6 counterparts.

The f-block elements are unified by mostly having one or more electrons in an inner f-orbital. Of the f-orbitals, five have six lobes each, and the sixth looks like a dumbbell with a donut with two rings. They can contain up to seven pairs of electrons hence the block occupies fourteen columns in the periodic table. They are not assigned group numbers, since vertical periodic trends cannot be discerned in a "group" of two elements.

The two 14-member rows of the f-block elements are sometimes confused with the lanthanides and the actinides, which are names for sets of elements based on chemical properties more so than electron configurations. The lanthanides are the 15 elements running from La to Lu; the actinides are the 15 elements running from Ac to Lr.

Discrepancies[edit]

Standard form of periodic table showing the differentiating electron type in each element.

The standard form of periodic table has twelve discrepancies in which the differentiating electron of the element involved is not the same as the block in which the element is located. For example, helium has an s- differentiating electron yet is nearly always located in the p-block; zinc, cadmium, and mercury have s-differentiating electrons yet are located in the d-block; lawrencium has a p- differentiating electron yet is located at the end of the f-block. If helium is located above beryllium,[3] the number of discrepancies is reduced to eleven (in such a table helium can still be coloured as a noble gas).

In a table in which the f-block is considered to be between groups 2 and 3 instead of 3 and 4, there are thirteen discrepancies.

Symmetry[edit]

The four blocks can be rearranged such that they fit, equidistantly spaced, inside a regular tetrahedron. The latter, in turn, fits into a cube.[4]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Charles Janet, La classification hélicoïdale des éléments chimiques, Beauvais, 1928
  2. ^ Stewart, P. J. "Tetrahedral and spherical representations of the periodic system". Foundations of Chemistry. 20 (2):  111–120. doi:10.1007/s10698-017-9299-y.
  3. ^ Grochla, W. "On the position of helium and neon in the periodic table of elements". Foundations of Chemistry. 20 (3):  191–207. doi:10.1007/s10698-017-9302-7.
  4. ^ Stewart, P. (2018). "Amateurs and professionals in chemistry: The case of the periodic table". In Scerri, E.; Restrepo, G. (eds.). From Mendeleev to Oganesson: A Multidisciplinary Perspective on the Periodic Table. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 66–79 (76–77). ISBN 978-0-190-66853-2.; Leach, M. R. "ADOMAH Periodic Table Glass Cube". Internet Database of Periodic Tables. Retrieved August 1, 2019.

External links[edit]

The tetrahedral periodic table of elements. Animation showing a transition from the conventional table into a tetrahedron.