What to Know About Periodic Table of the Chemical Elements

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Periodic Table

Periodic Table

The periodic table, also known as the periodic table of the chemical elements, is a tabular display of the chemical elements. It is widely used in chemistry, physics, and other sciences, and is generally seen as an icon of chemistry. It is a graphic formulation of the periodic law, which states that the properties of the chemical elements exhibit a periodic dependence on their atomic numbers.

The table is divided into four roughly rectangular areas called blocks. The rows of the table are called periods, and the columns are called groups. Elements from the same column group of the periodic table show similar chemical characteristics. Trends run through the periodic table, with nonmetallic character (keeping their own electrons) increasing from left to right across a period, and from down to up across a group, and metallic character (surrendering electrons to other atoms) increasing in the opposite direction. The underlying reason for these trends is the electron configurations of atoms.

The first periodic table to become generally accepted was that of the Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev in 1869: he formulated the periodic law as a dependence of chemical properties on atomic mass. Because not all elements were then known, there were gaps in his periodic table, and Mendeleev successfully used the periodic law to predict the properties of some of the missing elements.


The structure of the periodic table makes it possible to see relationships between elements at a glance and predict properties of unfamiliar, newly discovered, or undiscovered elements.


There are seven rows of the periodic table, which are called periods. Element atomic number increases moving from left to right across a period. Elements toward the left side of a period are metals, while those on the right side are nonmetals. Moving down a period on the table adds a new electron shell.


The columns of elements are called groups or families. Groups are numbered from 1 (the alkali metals) to 18 (the noble gases). Elements with a group share a valence electron configuration. Elements within a group display a pattern with respect to atomic radius, electronegativity, and ionization energy. Atomic radius increases moving down a group, as successive elements gain an electron energy level. Electronegativity decreases moving down a group because adding an electron shell pushes the valence electrons further from the nucleus. Moving down a group, elements have successively lower ionization energies because it becomes easier to remove an electron from the outermost shell.


Blocks are sections of the periodic table that indicate the outer electron subshell of the atom. The s-block includes the first two groups (the alkali metals and the alkaline earths), hydrogen, and helium. The p-block includes groups 13 to 18. The d-block includes groups 3 to 12, which are transition metals. The f-block consists of the two periods below the main body of the periodic table (the lanthanides and actinides).

Metals, Metalloids, Nonmetals

The three broad categories of elements are metals, metalloids or semimetals, and nonmetals. Metallic character is highest at the bottom lefthand corner of the periodic table, while the most nonmetallic elements are in the upper-righthand corner.

The majority of chemical elements are metals. Metals tend to be shiny (metallic luster), hard, conductive, and capable of forming alloys. Nonmetals tend to be soft, colored, insulators, and capable of forming compounds with metals. Metalloids display properties intermediate between those of metals and nonmetals. Toward the right side of the periodic table, the metals transition into nonmetals. There is a rough staircase pattern—starting at boron and going through silicon, germanium, arsenic, antimony, tellurium, and polonium—that identified the metalloids. However, chemists increasingly categorize other elements as metalloids, including carbon, phosphorus, gallium, and others.


Dmitri Mendeleev and Julius Lothar Meyer independently published periodic tables in 1869 and 1870, respectively. However, Meyer had already published an earlier version in 1864. Both Mendeleev and Meyer organized elements by increasing atomic weight and organized elements according to repeating characteristics.

Several other earlier tables were produced. Antoine Lavoisier organized elements into metals, nonmetals, and gases in 1789. In 1862, Alexandre-Emile Béguyer de Chancourtois published a periodic table called the telluric helix or screw. This table was probably the first to organize elements by periodic properties.

Source: thoughtco.com

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