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Chapter 7 – D and F Block Elements

The following Topics and Sub-Topics are covered in this chapter and are available on MSVgo:

Introduction

In the periodic table, d-block consists of the elements of groups 3-12 wherein some elements of group 3 are considered as formal members and form the f-block. The f-block is generally displayed as a separate part of the periodic table. D-block comprises popular industrial metals like copper, titanium, and iron, as well as precious metals like platinum, silver, and gold. Further, f-block elements like thorium and uranium are used for the generation of nuclear energy.

In this blog, you will learn more about these elements.

The d and f-block elements are known as transition metals and inner transition metals, respectively. In general, transition elements refer to the elements which have partially filled d or f subshell in their ground or oxidation states. Elements of d-block have progressively filled d orbitals in all of the four long periods. 

Similarly, the f-block elements have progressively filled 4f and 5f orbitals in the latter two long periods. However, three of the group 12 elements (zinc, mercury, cadmium) are not counted among transition metals because of their fully filled d orbitals.

The d and f-block elements were named ‘transition metals’ owing to their position in the periodic table. The d-block is the middlemost section of the periodic table with p- and s- blocks on either side of it. However, the f-block is placed outside at the bottom of the main table in order to save space.

There are four main series of d-block elements, namely 3d (Sc(21) to Zn(30)), 4d (Y(39) to Cd(48)), 5d (La(57), Hf(72) to Hg(80)), and 6d (Ac(89), Rf(104) to Cn(112)). Each series corresponds to the filled outer shell of respective orbitals. The fourth series (6d) remains incomplete. Likewise, there are two series of f-block elements, called 4f (Ce (58) to Lu (71)) and 5f (Th(90) to Lr(103)).

The general electronic configuration of the d-block elements is: (n-1)d1-10ns1-2.

Here, (n-1)d represents the inner d orbitals which can have 1 to 10 electrons, and ‘ns’ denotes the outermost orbital with 1 or 2 electrons. But, since there is very less energy gap between the ns and (n-1)d orbitals, the generalized configuration has a number of exceptions. Another reason for this is the relatively higher stability of completely filled or half-filled orbitals. A classic case in this respect is of Copper (Cu) and Chromium (Cr). The configuration of Cu is 3d104s1 rather than 3d94s2, and that of Cr is 3d54s1 and not 3d44s2.

On the other hand, the electronic configuration of elements with completely filled d- orbitals, i.e. Zn, Hg and Cd is given by: (n-1)d10ns2.

The general electronic configuration of f-block elements is: (n-2)f1-14 (n-1)d0-10ns2; where (n-2)f refer to f orbitals. The properties of f-block elements are similar due to almost the same outermost configuration. However, the differences occur because of variations in the f subshell.

Except for zinc, mercury, and cadmium, all d-block (transition) elements share some common properties. Given are the general properties of the transition elements:

  • Transition metals exhibit typical metallic features such as malleability, ductility, hardness, lustre, electrical and thermal conductivity.
  • They have low volatility, high boiling and melting points.
  • Most of these elements make up colored compounds. Their compounds are usually paramagnetic due to the unpaired electrons of their d orbitals.
  • They show several oxidation states because of the less energy difference.

It is observed that the transition elements have higher horizontal similarities compared to the main group elements.

The inner transition elements of the first series (4f) of f-block are known as lanthanides as they follow after the atomic number of lanthanum (57), a d-block element. The lanthanides share some common features with lanthanum. Likewise, the elements of the second series (5f) are named as actinides. The actinides receive their name from actinium (89) which proceeds them in atomic number. Listed below are some of their prominent characteristics:

  • Both lanthanides and actinides are silver-colored heavy metals with high boiling and melting points.
  • Both are highly reactive and exhibit magnetic properties.
  • Lanthanides are soft metals that tarnish when exposed to air.
  • While all the actinides are radioactive, the lanthanides are non-radioactive with the exception of promethium (61).
  • Just like d-block elements, lanthanides and actinides have various oxidation states and make up complex and coloured compounds.

1. What are some important compounds of transition elements?

Transition metals form an essential part of popular oxidising, colourising, and decolourising agents. Some of these are:

  • Potassium Permanganate (KMnO4)
    A dark purple coloured compound, Potassium Permanganate is used for its excellent oxidising properties. It is produced from the mineral called pyrolusite.
  • Potassium Dichromate (K2Cr2O7)
    Potassium Dichromate is another commercial oxidising agent widely utilised in industrial facilities. Prepared from the chromite ore, it is orangish-red in colour.
  • Ferrous Sulphate (FeSO4.7H2O)
    Commonly known as Green Vitriol, this compound occurs in natural resources or is formed from them. FeSO4 is green in a hydrated state and white in anhydrous state.
  • Silver Nitrate (AgNO3)
    Silver Nitrate creates precipitates with certain salt solutions which in turn aids in the detection of the acidic radicals. It decomposes by the application of heat.

2. What are some applications of d- and f-block elements?

The d and f-block elements are extensively used across a variety of industries. For example, iron and its alloys in construction; zinc, cadmium, and nickel in batteries; silver in the coinage and photography sector, etc. Many transition metals are needed as catalysts and oxidants in chemical and pigment factories.

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