General characteristics of alkaline earth metals
Beryllium is rare and radium is the rarest of all comprising only 10 % of igneous rocks. Magnesium and calcium are very common in the earth’s crust, with calcium the fifth-most-abundant element, and magnesium the eighth. Magnesium and calcium are found in many rocks and minerals: magnesium in carnallite, magnesite, dolomite and calcium in chalk, limestone, gypsum. Most strontium is found in the minerals celestite and strontianite. Barium is slightly less common, much of it in the mineral barite. Radium, being a decay product of uranium, is found in all uranium-bearing ores.
These elements have two electrons in the valence shell of their atoms, preceded by the noble gas configuration. Their general electronic configuration is written as [Noble gas]ns2 where ‘n’ represents the valence shell.
The atomic and ionic radii of alkaline earth metals are smaller than the corresponding members of the alkali metals. This is due to the fact the Group 2 elements having a higher nuclear charge that allows electrons to be attracted more strongly towards the nucleus. On moving down the group, the radii increases due to gradual increase in the number of the shells and the screening effect.
The group 2 elements have two electrons in their valence shell and by losing these electrons, they acquire the stable noble gas configuration. So these elements exhibit +2 oxidation state in their compounds.
Due to a fairly large size of the atoms, alkaline earth metals have low ionisation enthalpies when compared to ‘p’ block elements. Down the group the ionisation enthalpy decreases as atomic size increases. This is due to the addition of new shells as well as increase in the magnitude of the screening effect of inner shell electrons. Members of group 2 have higher ionization enthalpy values than group 1 because of their smaller size, with electrons being more attracted towards the nucleus of the atoms. Correspondingly they are less electropositive than alkali metals.
Although IE1 values of alkaline earth metals are higher than that of alkali metals, the IE2 values of alkaline earth metals are much smaller than those of alkali metals. This occurs because in alkali metals the second electron is to be removed from a cation, which has already acquired a noble gas configuration. In the case of alkaline earth metals, the second electron is to be removed from a monovalent cation, which still has one electron in the outermost shell. Thus, the second electron can be removed more easily in the case of group 2 elements than in group 1 elements.
Compounds of alkaline earth metals are more extensively hydrated than those of alkali metals, because the hydration enthalpies of alkaline earth metal ions are larger than those of alkali metal ions.
Like alkali metal ions, the hydration enthalpies of alkaline earth metal ions also decrease with increase in ionic size down the group.
Be > Mg > Ca > Sr > Ba
e.g., MgCl2 and CaCl2 exist as MgCl2.6H2O and CaCl2· 6H2O while NaCl and KCl do not form such hydrates.
In alkaline earth metals the electronegativity values decrease as we go down the group as seen in the alkali metals.
When the alkaline earth metal salts moistened with concentrated hydrochloric acid are heated on a platinum wire in a flame, they show characteristic coloured flame as shown below.
The heat in the flame excites the valence electron to a higher energy level. when it drops back to its actual energy level, the excess energy is emitted as light, whose wavelength is in the visible region as shown in the above table.
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