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Boron is a non-metal with metalloidal tenancies. The higher ionization energies for boron than for its other Group homologs are far more than would be compensated by lattice energies, and thus, the B 3+ ion plays no part in the chemistry of boron, and its chemistry is dominated by the formation of covalent compounds. In contrast, the elements aluminum through thallium each has a low electronegativity and the chemistry of their compounds reflects this characteristic. Each of the Group 13 metals forms both covalent compounds and ionic coordination complexes.

All of the Group 13 (IIIA) elements have a valence shell electron configuration of n s 2 n p 1 . As a consequence all of the Group 13 elements for compounds in which they adopt a +3 oxidation state. While the lighter elements do form compounds with lower oxidation state, they are not the norm; however, the +1 oxidation state is more prevalent for the heavier elements in particular thallium. The rational for this is described as the inert pair effect . The inert pair effect is usually explained by the energy of the n s orbital is lower making it harder to ionize and stabilizing a n s 2 np 0 valence shell. However, as may be seen from [link] the sum of the second and third ionization enthalpies is lower for indium (4501 kJ/mol), than for gallium (4916 kJ/mol), but with thallium intermediate (4820 kJ/mol). The true source of the inert pair effect is that the lower bond strengths observed for the heavier elements (due to more diffuse orbitals and therefore less efficient overlap) cannot compensate for the energy needed to promote the n s 2 electrons. For example, the bond energies for gallium, indium, and thallium in MCl 3 are 242, 206, and 153 kJ/mol, respectively. It has also been suggested that relativistic effects make a contribution to the inert pair effect.

Summary of first three ionization enthalpies for the Group 13 metals.
Ionization enthalpy (kJ/mol) Al Ga In Tl
1 576.4 578.3 558.1 589.0
2 1814.1 1969.3 1811.2 1958.7
3 2741.4 2950.0 2689.3 2868.8

In summary, it may be stated that while the chemistry of gallium, indium and thallium is very similar, that of aluminum is slightly different, while boron’s chemistry is very different from the rest of the Group.

A second effect is noticed in the transition from aluminum, to gallium, to indium. Based upon their position in the Group it would be expected that the ionic radius and associated lattice parameters should follow the trend:

However, as may be seen from [link] the values for gallium are either the same as, or smaller, than that of aluminum. In a similar manner, the covalent radius and covalent bond lengths as determined by X-ray crystallography for a range of compounds ( [link] ).

Table. Lattice parameter ( a ) for zinc blende forms of the Group 13 phosphides and arsenides. Data from Semiconductors: Group IV Elements and III-V Compounds , Ed. O. Madelung, Springer-Verlag, Berlin (1991).
Element Phosphide lattice parameter (Å) Arsenide lattice parameter (Å)
Al 5.4635 5.6600
Ga 5.4505 5.6532
In 5.8687 6.0583
Comparative crystallographically determined bond lengths.
Element M-C (Å) M-N (Å) M-O (Å) M-Cl (Å)
Al 1.96 – 2.02 2.03 – 2.19 1.74 – 1.93 2.09 – 2.11
Ga 1.97 – 2.01 1.95 – 2.12 1.89 - 1.94 2.12 – 2.23
In 2.14 – 2.17 2.23 – 2.31 2.19 – 2.20 2.39 – 2.47

Gallium is significantly smaller than expected from its position within the Group 13 elements ( [link] ). The rational for this may be attributed to an analogous effect as seen in the lanthanide contraction observed for the lanthanides and the 3 rd row of transition elements. In multi-electron atoms, the decrease in radius brought about by an increase in nuclear charge is partially offset by increasing electrostatic repulsion among electrons. In particular, a “shielding effect” results when electrons are added in outer shells, electrons already present shield the outer electrons from nuclear charge, making them experience a lower effective charge on the nucleus. The shielding effect exerted by the inner electrons decreases in the order s > p > d > f . As a sub-shell is filled in a period the atomic radius decreases. This effect is particularly pronounced in the case of lanthanides, as the 4 f sub-shell is not very effective at shielding the outer shell (n = 5 and n = 6) electrons. However, a similar, but smaller effect should be observed with the post-transition metal elements, i.e., gallium. This is indeed observed ( [link] ).

Comparison of the covalent and ionic radii of Group 13 elements.
Element Covalent radius (Å) Ionic radius (Å)
Aluminum 1.21 0.53
Gallium 1.22 0.62
Indium 1.42 0.80
Iron (low spin) 1.32 0.55
Iron (high spin) 1.52 0.64

The anomalous size of gallium has two positive effects.

  1. The similarity in size of aluminum and gallium means that their Group 15 derivatives have near identical lattice parameters ( [link] ). This allows for both epitaxial growth of one material on the other, and also the formation of ternary mixtures (i.e., Al x Ga 1-x As) with matched lattice parameters. The ability to grow hetrojunction structures of Group 13-15 compounds (III-V) is the basis for the fabrication of a wide range of important optoelectronic devices, including: LEDs and laser diodes.
  2. The similarity in size of gallium(III) to iron(III) ( [link] ) means that gallium can substitute iron in a range of coordination compounds without alteration of the structure. Because of a similar size and charge as Fe 3+ , Ga 3+ is widely used as a non-redox-active Fe 3+ substitute for studying metal complexation in proteins and bacterial populations.


  • K. S. Pitzer, Acc. Chem. Res. , 1979, 12 , 271.
  • K. D. Weaver, J. J. Heymann, A. Mehta, P. L. Roulhac, D. S. Anderson, A. J. Nowalk, P. Adhikari, T. A. Mietzner, M. C. Fitzgerald, and A. L. Crumbliss, J. Biol. Inorg. Chem. , 2008, 13 , 887.
  • Semiconductors: Group IV Elements and III-V Compounds , Ed. O. Madelung, Springer-Verlag, Berlin (1991).

Questions & Answers

where we get a research paper on Nano chemistry....?
Maira Reply
nanopartical of organic/inorganic / physical chemistry , pdf / thesis / review
what are the products of Nano chemistry?
Maira Reply
There are lots of products of nano chemistry... Like nano coatings.....carbon fiber.. And lots of others..
Even nanotechnology is pretty much all about chemistry... Its the chemistry on quantum or atomic level
no nanotechnology is also a part of physics and maths it requires angle formulas and some pressure regarding concepts
Preparation and Applications of Nanomaterial for Drug Delivery
Hafiz Reply
Application of nanotechnology in medicine
what is variations in raman spectra for nanomaterials
Jyoti Reply
ya I also want to know the raman spectra
I only see partial conversation and what's the question here!
Crow Reply
what about nanotechnology for water purification
RAW Reply
please someone correct me if I'm wrong but I think one can use nanoparticles, specially silver nanoparticles for water treatment.
yes that's correct
I think
Nasa has use it in the 60's, copper as water purification in the moon travel.
nanocopper obvius
what is the stm
Brian Reply
is there industrial application of fullrenes. What is the method to prepare fullrene on large scale.?
industrial application...? mmm I think on the medical side as drug carrier, but you should go deeper on your research, I may be wrong
How we are making nano material?
what is a peer
What is meant by 'nano scale'?
What is STMs full form?
scanning tunneling microscope
how nano science is used for hydrophobicity
Do u think that Graphene and Fullrene fiber can be used to make Air Plane body structure the lightest and strongest. Rafiq
what is differents between GO and RGO?
what is simplest way to understand the applications of nano robots used to detect the cancer affected cell of human body.? How this robot is carried to required site of body cell.? what will be the carrier material and how can be detected that correct delivery of drug is done Rafiq
analytical skills graphene is prepared to kill any type viruses .
Any one who tell me about Preparation and application of Nanomaterial for drug Delivery
what is Nano technology ?
Bob Reply
write examples of Nano molecule?
The nanotechnology is as new science, to scale nanometric
nanotechnology is the study, desing, synthesis, manipulation and application of materials and functional systems through control of matter at nanoscale
Is there any normative that regulates the use of silver nanoparticles?
Damian Reply
what king of growth are you checking .?
What fields keep nano created devices from performing or assimulating ? Magnetic fields ? Are do they assimilate ?
Stoney Reply
why we need to study biomolecules, molecular biology in nanotechnology?
Adin Reply
yes I'm doing my masters in nanotechnology, we are being studying all these domains as well..
what school?
biomolecules are e building blocks of every organics and inorganic materials.
waht is hydrating power of lithium carbonates
Mahar Reply

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Source:  OpenStax, Chemistry of the main group elements. OpenStax CNX. Aug 20, 2010 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11124/1.25
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