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Some Background On The Alkali Metals

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Some Background on The Alkali Metals
Updated on October 3, 2016 Theise Pick moreContact Author The alkali metals are probably mostly remembered by people as ‘that fun bit from chemistry’. The experiments involving the primary three of the alkali metals (Consisting of cutting a sliver of one of the soft metals and dropping it into a small body of water.) are likely probably the most visually impressive seen in highschool science lessons. I feel it is only right to honour these inspiring reactants with some information on each of them.

Firstly, after we say ‘alkali metals’, we mean all of the elements (Excluding hydrogen sitting at the highest.) on the far left of the periodic table. So as from lowest atomic mass to highest, these are: lithium (Li), sodium (Na), potassium (K), rubidium (Rb), caesium (Cs) and francium (Fr). In the event you chose not to pursue the field of Chemistry further than highschool, you likely only recognise the primary three, lithium, sodium and potassium. If you can cast your mind back to the reaction of some water and an alkali metal, you might do not forget that lithium wasn’t very reactive, sodium was a bit more reactive, and potassium was very reactive. You’ll notice as you travel down the alkali metals, the reactivity of every respective metal increases. That is to do with the truth that when an alkali metal reacts with something else (On this case, water.) it loses it’s outermost electron. As you travel down the periodic table, the quantity of electrons of an atom increases, and thus the force of attraction exerted on the outermost electron by the nucleus decreases, making it easier to lose. For those interested, an opposite effect can be seen with halogens, as they must gain an electron.

Lithium
Source Not to get sidetracked by the halogens, let’s take a look at the primary alkali metal; lithium. Lithium has an atomic variety of 3, it has 4 neutrons and three protons and 3 electrons. It was discovered in 1817 by Johan August Arfwedson in Sweden. As remarked before, it’s the least reactive of the alkali metals, and can even be cut with a knife! In case you were to get a sample of lithium and cut it with a knife (Taking appropriate safety precautions, after all.) you’d notice that the newly exposed face reacts quickly with the air, quickly turning dull. It’s reaction with water is a lot more exciting, it fizzes and hisses while popping in regards to the container. When you were to drop some universal indicator in beforehand, you will notice the lithium leaves behind a deep purple colouring. This is actually where the alkali metals earn their name, as once they react with water they leave behind a very alkaline solution. No doubt lithium’s most helpful use is its role in lithium-ion batteries, which hold the ability of the fashionable world.

Sodium
Source Next is sodium, which keeps with the alkali metal tradition in being more reactive than lithium. It has atomic number 11, with 11 protons, 11 electrons and 12 neutrons. It would turn dull faster when in contact with the air and will react more violently with water. Sodium is used just as much as lithium in daily life, in the form of salt (Or sodium chloride.), or as a coolant for some nuclear reactors when in liquid form (Between 98 and 883 degrees celsius; which admittedly seems hot for a coolant, but nuclear reactors can run lots hotter than 93 degrees.).

Potassium
Source Potassium is the following alkali metal, with 19 protons, 19 electrons and 20 neutrons. Potassium’s reaction with water is leagues more visually awe-inspiring than the first two, reacting violently enough to ignite the hydrogen it releases in the course of the reaction. I have a specific memory from one chemistry lesson wherein a classmate likened it to an ‘atomic goldfish’. Potassium ions are essential to human life, most significantly in the transmission of signals across cells. Potassium can also be a vitally important fertiliser, with crop production even doubling with the use of potassium and phosphorous based fertilisers! Like most resources on Earth, potassium is in limited concentrated supply; with some experts estimating that we may have already hit or be about to hit peak potassium/phosphorous.

Rubidium
Source Rubidium follows potassium, with 37 protons and electrons respectively and with 48 neutrons. Rubidium is so reactive that it should be stored in a petroleum jelly or else it’s going to ignite in air. Rubidium does not play a biological role like potassium or sodium do, but it’s used within the function of ultra-accurate atomic clocks. It is because a second is strictly equal to six,834,682,610.9 (To 1 decimal place.) oscillation of the outermost electron of a rubidium atom. By counting these oscillations an atomic clock can provide extreme accuracy.

Caesium
Source Stepping into the extremely reactive range now with caesium. Caesium also needs to be stored in jelly or oil and can even explode in water, in actual fact it has been shown with a high-speed camera to become transparent during its aggressive reaction with water.It has 55 protons, 55 electrons and 78 neutrons. Like the element above, additionally it is utilized in atomic clocks for precision time-keeping. Caesium is incredibly rare, with only around 18,000 kilograms being produced annually.

Francium
Source Following tradition to the extreme is francium, with a particularly large atom of 87 protons, 87 electrons and 136 neutrons. The explosion francium would produce upon contact with water could be magnitudes larger than caesium. The properties of this alkali metal aren’t natural gas pipe velocity particularly well-documented as it is much tougher to check than the opposite alkali metals, because of it being so radioactive that within no less than 22 minutes half of it will have decayed. It cannot be found naturally occurring on Earth and may only be produced with incredibly expensive machinery for international research collaboration projects.

Sources
Sources:
Wikipedia 😉

“The Periodic Table: A Field Guide to the weather”, by Paul Parsons and Gail Dixon natural gas pipe velocity (An incredible book, worth it for anyone interested on this form of thing.)

“Encyclopedia of the elements” By Per Enghag
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