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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Outline the general approach for the isolation of transition metals from natural sources
  • Describe typical physical and chemical properties of the transition metals
  • Identify simple compound classes for transition metals and describe their chemical properties

Transition metals are defined as those elements that have (or readily form) partially filled d orbitals. As shown in [link] , the d -block elements in groups 3–11 are transition elements. The f -block elements , also called inner transition metals (the lanthanides and actinides), also meet this criterion because the d orbital is partially occupied before the f orbitals. The d orbitals fill with the copper family (group 11); for this reason, the next family (group 12) are technically not transition elements. However, the group 12 elements do display some of the same chemical properties and are commonly included in discussions of transition metals. Some chemists do treat the group 12 elements as transition metals.

The Periodic Table of Elements is shown. The 18 columns are labeled “Group” and the 7 rows are labeled “Period.” Below the table to the right is a box labeled “Color Code” with different colors for metals, metalloids, and nonmetals, as well as solids, liquids, and gases. To the left of this box is an enlarged picture of the upper-left most box on the table. The number 1 is in its upper-left hand corner and is labeled “Atomic number.” The letter “H” is in the middle in red indicating that it is a gas. It is labeled “Symbol.” Below that is the number 1.008 which is labeled “Atomic Mass.” Below that is the word hydrogen which is labeled “name.” The color of the box indicates that it is a nonmetal. Each element will be described in this order: atomic number; name; symbol; whether it is a metal, metalloid, or nonmetal; whether it is a solid, liquid, or gas; and atomic mass. Beginning at the top left of the table, or period 1, group 1, is a box containing “1; hydrogen; H; nonmetal; gas; and 1.008.” There is only one other element box in period 1, group 18, which contains “2; helium; H e; nonmetal; gas; and 4.003.” Period 2, group 1 contains “3; lithium; L i; metal; solid; and 6.94” Group 2 contains “4; beryllium; B e; metal; solid; and 9.012.” Groups 3 through 12 are skipped and group 13 contains “5; boron; B; metalloid; solid; 10.81.” Group 14 contains “6; carbon; C; nonmetal; solid; and 12.01.” Group 15 contains “7; nitrogen; N; nonmetal; gas; and 14.01.” Group 16 contains “8; oxygen; O; nonmetal; gas; and 16.00.” Group 17 contains “9; fluorine; F; nonmetal; gas; and 19.00.” Group 18 contains “10; neon; N e; nonmetal; gas; and 20.18.” Period 3, group 1 contains “11; sodium; N a; metal; solid; and 22.99.” Group 2 contains “12; magnesium; M g; metal; solid; and 24.31.” Groups 3 through 12 are skipped again in period 3 and group 13 contains “13; aluminum; A l; metal; solid; and 26.98.” Group 14 contains “14; silicon; S i; metalloid; solid; and 28.09.” Group 15 contains “15; phosphorous; P; nonmetal; solid; and 30.97.” Group 16 contains “16; sulfur; S; nonmetal; solid; and 32.06.” Group 17 contains “17; chlorine; C l; nonmetal; gas; and 35.45.” Group 18 contains “18; argon; A r; nonmetal; gas; and 39.95.” Period 4, group 1 contains “19; potassium; K; metal; solid; and 39.10.” Group 2 contains “20; calcium; C a; metal; solid; and 40.08.” Group 3 contains “21; scandium; S c; metal; solid; and 44.96.” Group 4 contains “22; titanium; T i; metal; solid; and 47.87.” Group 5 contains “23; vanadium; V; metal; solid; and 50.94.” Group 6 contains “24; chromium; C r; metal; solid; and 52.00.” Group 7 contains “25; manganese; M n; metal; solid; and 54.94.” Group 8 contains “26; iron; F e; metal; solid; and 55.85.” Group 9 contains “27; cobalt; C o; metal; solid; and 58.93.” Group 10 contains “28; nickel; N i; metal; solid; and 58.69.” Group 11 contains “29; copper; C u; metal; solid; and 63.55.” Group 12 contains “30; zinc; Z n; metal; solid; and 65.38.” Group 13 contains “31; gallium; G a; metal; solid; and 69.72.” Group 14 contains “32; germanium; G e; metalloid; solid; and 72.63.” Group 15 contains “33; arsenic; A s; metalloid; solid; and 74.92.” Group 16 contains “34; selenium; S e; nonmetal; solid; and 78.97.” Group 17 contains “35; bromine; B r; nonmetal; liquid; and 79.90.” Group 18 contains “36; krypton; K r; nonmetal; gas; and 83.80.” Period 5, group 1 contains “37; rubidium; R b; metal; solid; and 85.47.” Group 2 contains “38; strontium; S r; metal; solid; and 87.62.” Group 3 contains “39; yttrium; Y; metal; solid; and 88.91.” Group 4 contains “40; zirconium; Z r; metal; solid; and 91.22.” Group 5 contains “41; niobium; N b; metal; solid; and 92.91.” Group 6 contains “42; molybdenum; M o; metal; solid; and 95.95.” Group 7 contains “43; technetium; T c; metal; solid; and 97.” Group 8 contains “44; ruthenium; R u; metal; solid; and 101.1.” Group 9 contains “45; rhodium; R h; metal; solid; and 102.9.” Group 10 contains “46; palladium; P d; metal; solid; and 106.4.” Group 11 contains “47; silver; A g; metal; solid; and 107.9.” Group 12 contains “48; cadmium; C d; metal; solid; and 112.4.” Group 13 contains “49; indium; I n; metal; solid; and 114.8.” Group 14 contains “50; tin; S n; metal; solid; and 118.7.” Group 15 contains “51; antimony; S b; metalloid; solid; and 121.8.” Group 16 contains “52; tellurium; T e; metalloid; solid; and 127.6.” Group 17 contains “53; iodine; I; nonmetal; solid; and 126.9.” Group 18 contains “54; xenon; X e; nonmetal; gas; and 131.3.” Period 6, group 1 contains “55; cesium; C s; metal; solid; and 132.9.” Group 2 contains “56; barium; B a; metal; solid; and 137.3.” Group 3 breaks the pattern. The box has a large arrow pointing to a row of elements below the table with atomic numbers ranging from 57-71. In sequential order by atomic number, the first box in this row contains “57; lanthanum; L a; metal; solid; and 138.9.” To its right, the next is “58; cerium; C e; metal; solid; and 140.1.” Next is “59; praseodymium; P r; metal; solid; and 140.9.” Next is “60; neodymium; N d; metal; solid; and 144.2.” Next is “61; promethium; P m; metal; solid; and 145.” Next is “62; samarium; S m; metal; solid; and 150.4.” Next is “63; europium; E u; metal; solid; and 152.0.” Next is “64; gadolinium; G d; metal; solid; and 157.3.” Next is “65; terbium; T b; metal; solid; and 158.9.” Next is “66; dysprosium; D y; metal; solid; and 162.5.” Next is “67; holmium; H o; metal; solid; and 164.9.” Next is “68; erbium; E r; metal; solid; and 167.3.” Next is “69; thulium; T m; metal; solid; and 168.9.” Next is “70; ytterbium; Y b; metal; solid; and 173.1.” The last in this special row is “71; lutetium; L u; metal; solid; and 175.0.” Continuing in period 6, group 4 contains “72; hafnium; H f; metal; solid; and 178.5.” Group 5 contains “73; tantalum; T a; metal; solid; and 180.9.” Group 6 contains “74; tungsten; W; metal; solid; and 183.8.” Group 7 contains “75; rhenium; R e; metal; solid; and 186.2.” Group 8 contains “76; osmium; O s; metal; solid; and 190.2.” Group 9 contains “77; iridium; I r; metal; solid; and 192.2.” Group 10 contains “78; platinum; P t; metal; solid; and 195.1.” Group 11 contains “79; gold; A u; metal; solid; and 197.0.” Group 12 contains “80; mercury; H g; metal; liquid; and 200.6.” Group 13 contains “81; thallium; T l; metal; solid; and 204.4.” Group 14 contains “82; lead; P b; metal; solid; and 207.2.” Group 15 contains “83; bismuth; B i; metal; solid; and 209.0.” Group 16 contains “84; polonium; P o; metal; solid; and 209.” Group 17 contains “85; astatine; A t; metalloid; solid; and 210.” Group 18 contains “86; radon; R n; nonmetal; gas; and 222.” Period 7, group 1 contains “87; francium; F r; metal; solid; and 223.” Group 2 contains “88; radium; R a; metal; solid; and 226.” Group 3 breaks the pattern much like what occurs in period 6. A large arrow points from the box in period 7, group 3 to a special row containing the elements with atomic numbers ranging from 89-103, just below the row which contains atomic numbers 57-71. In sequential order by atomic number, the first box in this row contains “89; actinium; A c; metal; solid; and 227.” To its right, the next is “90; thorium; T h; metal; solid; and 232.0.” Next is “91; protactinium; P a; metal; solid; and 231.0.” Next is “92; uranium; U; metal; solid; and 238.0.” Next is “93; neptunium; N p; metal; solid; and N p.” Next is “94; plutonium; P u; metal; solid; and 244.” Next is “95; americium; A m; metal; solid; and 243.” Next is “96; curium; C m; metal; solid; and 247.” Next is “97; berkelium; B k; metal; solid; and 247.” Next is “98; californium; C f; metal; solid; and 251.” Next is “99; einsteinium; E s; metal; solid; and 252.” Next is “100; fermium; F m; metal; solid; and 257.” Next is “101; mendelevium; M d; metal; solid; and 258.” Next is “102; nobelium; N o; metal; solid; and 259.” The last in this special row is “103; lawrencium; L r; metal; solid; and 262.” Continuing in period 7, group 4 contains “104; rutherfordium; R f; metal; solid; and 267.” Group 5 contains “105; dubnium; D b; metal; solid; and 270.” Group 6 contains “106; seaborgium; S g; metal; solid; and 271.” Group 7 contains “107; bohrium; B h; metal; solid; and 270.” Group 8 contains “108; hassium; H s; metal; solid; and 277.” Group 9 contains “109; meitnerium; M t; not indicated; solid; and 276.” Group 10 contains “110; darmstadtium; D s; not indicated; solid; and 281.” Group 11 contains “111; roentgenium; R g; not indicated; solid; and 282.” Group 12 contains “112; copernicium; C n; metal; liquid; and 285.” Group 13 contains “113; ununtrium; U u t; not indicated; solid; and 285.” Group 14 contains “114; flerovium; F l; not indicated; solid; and 289.” Group 15 contains “115; ununpentium; U u p; not indicated; solid; and 288.” Group 16 contains “116; livermorium; L v; not indicated; solid; and 293.” Group 17 contains “117; ununseptium; U u s; not indicated; solid; and 294.” Group 18 contains “118; ununoctium; U u o; not indicated; solid; and 294.”
The transition metals are located in groups 3–11 of the periodic table. The inner transition metals are in the two rows below the body of the table.

The d -block elements are divided into the first transition series    (the elements Sc through Cu), the second transition series    (the elements Y through Ag), and the third transition series    (the element La and the elements Hf through Au). Actinium, Ac, is the first member of the fourth transition series    , which also includes Rf through Rg.

The f -block elements are the elements Ce through Lu, which constitute the lanthanide series    (or lanthanoid series ), and the elements Th through Lr, which constitute the actinide series    (or actinoid series ). Because lanthanum behaves very much like the lanthanide elements, it is considered a lanthanide element, even though its electron configuration makes it the first member of the third transition series. Similarly, the behavior of actinium means it is part of the actinide series, although its electron configuration makes it the first member of the fourth transition series.

Valence electrons in transition metals

Review how to write electron configurations, covered in the chapter on electronic structure and periodic properties of elements. Recall that for the transition and inner transition metals, it is necessary to remove the s electrons before the d or f electrons. Then, for each ion, give the electron configuration:

(a) cerium(III)

(b) lead(II)

(c) Ti 2+

(d) Am 3+

(e) Pd 2+

For the examples that are transition metals, determine to which series they belong.


For ions, the s -valence electrons are lost prior to the d or f electrons.

(a) Ce 3+ [Xe]4 f 1 ; Ce 3+ is an inner transition element in the lanthanide series.

(b) Pb 2+ [Xe]6 s 2 5 d 10 4 f 14 ; the electrons are lost from the p orbital. This is a main group element.
(c) titanium(II) [Ar]3 d 2 ; first transition series

(d) americium(III) [Rn]5 f 6 ; actinide

(e) palladium(II) [Kr]4 d 8 ; second transition series

Check your learning

Give an example of an ion from the first transition series with no d electrons.


V 5+ is one possibility. Other examples include Sc 3+ , Ti 4+ , Cr 6+ , and Mn 7+ .

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Source:  OpenStax, Chemistry. OpenStax CNX. May 20, 2015 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11760/1.9
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