The Transition Metals



Look at the periodic table between Family 2 and Family 13. What do you see? You should see several groups of elements that do not seem to fit into any other family. These elements are called the transition metals. Transition metals have properties similar to one another and to other metals, but they are different from the properties of any other family.
The names of the transition metals are probably well known to you. These are the metals with which you are probably most familiar: copper, tin, zinc, iron, nickel, gold, and silver, for example. You may also know that the transition metals are good conductors of heat and electricity. The compounds of transition metals are usually brightly colored and are often used to color paint. (Remember Mary Cassatt and the other Impressionist painters you read about at the beginning of the chapter?) Gold and silver are used to make jewelry and eating utensils. These two metals are oiten used in dental fillings to replace decayed areas of a tooth. Silver is essential in the making of photographic film and paper. Mercury is an interesting transition metal because it is a liquid at temperatures above --38.8°C. How do you think this fact relates to the use of mercury in household thermometers? Most transition elements have 1 or 2 valence electrons. When they combine with other atoms, they lose either 1 or both of their valence electrons. But transition elements can also lose an electron from the next-to-outermost energy level. In addition, transition elements can share electrons when they form bonds with other atoms. It is no wonder that transition elements form so many different compounds!

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