The unique set of elements known as the alkaline earth metals are key components to humanity and life as we know it. Without them, many things that we both love and need would be gone. These remarkably diverse yet very similar elements that make up the alkaline earth metals family are: Beryllium (Be), Magnesium (Mg), Calcium (Ca), Strontium (Sr), Barium (Ba), and Radium (Ra). Although this family is often overshadowed by the infamous alkali metals, you will soon learn how spectacular and brilliant these metals really are and their value to human life.
The alkaline earth metals are an interesting group of elements that have many properties and uses in this world. To learn about them will ...view middle of the document...
One of the main reasons that these metals all react to form very similar compounds is that they have similar electron configurations, and therefore atomic structure. All of the alkaline metals have two electrons in their highest energy levels. Because their valence electrons are the same, the reactions they take part in are basically the same. So, the only difference between these elements are their energy levels and their sizes. As you go down the column, the elements grow larger with more and more protons, making Radium the biggest element in the family. Interestingly, the bigger (and heavier) the element in the alkaline metal family, the more likely and vigorously it is to react.
Radioactivity is not uncommon for the alkaline earth metals. All of these metals have at least a few radioactive isotopes except for magnesium and strontium. Radium, on the other hand, is completely radioactive, so all isotopes of radium are radioactive. This is why the physical and chemical properties attributed to the other five elements do not apply to radium.
Each of these distinct elements have a fascinating history and background. Beryllium is derived from the Greek word Beryl, which means light green semi-precious gemstone, and was discovered by a French chemist, Louis-Nicholas Vauquelin. He was the one who found that an element was present in both emeralds and beryl, which were recognized as similar minerals in 1798. However, the chemists who succeeded in isolating the element were Friedrich Wolhler from Germany and A. Bussy from France in 1828. Before, beryllium was synonymous to the word glucinum, which is a word for “sweet” due to it’s compounds that have a sweet taste. However, it was later discovered that beryllium is highly poisonous and should not be digested under any circumstances.
The second alkaline earth metal is magnesium. The name magnesium comes from the Greek word Magnesia, which is a district in Thessaly, Greece. In 1808, Magnesium was first isolated by an English chemist, Sir Humphry Davy. Although he first isolated magnesium, there were other types of magnesium such as magnesium oxide and hydrated magnesium sulphate. A farmer who resided in Epsom, England discovered hydrated magnesium sulphate, which is now known as epsom salt, in 1618. He was giving water to his cows when he noticed that they refused to touch the water from a specific mineral well. Curious of their behavior, the farmer drank the water only to find it severely bitter, and later saw that rashes and cuts had formed on his skin. Now, instead of causing cuts, the epsom salt is used in medicines for the healing of cuts.
Calcium, the third element, comes from the Latin word calx, which means lime. It’s the fifth most abundant element in the earth’s crust. Because calcium forms compounds by reacting with oxygen and water, it is not found ordinarily in nature on its own. There are also different types of calcium, one of which is metallic calcium. In 1808, Sir Humphry Davy was...