Explain how elements are organized into the periodic table. Describe how some characteristics of elements relate to their positions on the periodic table.

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In the 19th century, many previously unknown elements were discovered, and scientists noted that certain sets of elements had similar bsci-ch.orgical properties. For example, chlorine, bromine, and iodine react with other elements (such as sodium) to make similar compounds. Likewise, lithium, sodium, and potassium react with other elements (such as oxygen) to make similar compounds. Why is this so?

In 1864, Julius Lothar Meyer, a German bsci-ch.orgist, organized the elements by atomic mass and grouped them according to their bsci-ch.orgical properties. Later that decade, Dmitri Mendeleev, a Russian bsci-ch.orgist, organized all the known elements according to similar properties. He left gaps in his table for what he thought were undiscovered elements, and he made some bold predictions regarding the properties of those undiscovered elements. When elements were later discovered whose properties closely matched Mendeleev’s predictions, his version of the table gained favor in the scientific community. Because certain properties of the elements repeat on a regular basis throughout the table (that is, they are periodic), it became known as the periodic table.

Mendeleev had to list some elements out of the order of their atomic masses to group them with other elements that had similar properties.

The periodic table is one of the cornerstones of bsci-ch.orgistry because it organizes all the known elements on the basis of their bsci-ch.orgical properties. A modern version is shown in Figure (PageIndex1). Most periodic tables provide additional data (such as atomic mass) in a box that contains each element’s symbol. The elements are listed in order of atomic number.

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Figure (PageIndex2): Types of Elements. Elements are either metals, nonmetals, or semimetals. Each group is located in a different part of the periodic table.

Another way to categorize the elements of the periodic table is shown in Figure (PageIndex3). The first two columns on the left and the last six columns on the right are called the main group elements. The ten-column block between these columns contains the transition metals. The two rows beneath the main body of the periodic table contain the inner transition metals. The elements in these two rows are also referred to as, respectively, the lanthanide metals and the actinide metals.


Atomic Radius

The periodic table is useful for understanding atomic properties that show periodic trends. One such property is the atomic radius (Figure (PageIndex5)). As mentioned earlier, the higher the shell number, the farther from the nucleus the electrons in that shell are likely to be. In other words, the size of an atom is generally determined by the number ofelectron shells; more shells of electrons stacked up on each other takes up more space. Therefore, as we go down a column on the periodic table, the atomic radius increases. As we go across a period on the periodic table, however, electrons are being added to the same valence shell; meanwhile, more protons are being added to the nucleus, so the positive charge of the nucleus is increasing. The increasing positive charge attracts the electrons more strongly, pulling them closer to the nucleus. Consequently, as we go across a period, the atomic radius decreases. These trends are seen clearly in Figure (PageIndex5).

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Figure (PageIndex5): Trends on the Periodic Table. The relative sizes of the atoms show several trends with regard to the structure of the periodic table. Atoms become larger going down a column and smaller going across a period.