Tag Archive | metal

A little bit more about metal.

My chemistry teacher has some awesome stories.

Potassium is highly reactive with water and air, as I discussed last week, a scientist must conduct experiments in a highly controlled environment. Well, he knows someone who took a can of potassium, tossed into the lake, and then shot it with a gun.

This caused a bunch of repeat explosions, for lack of better words, because the little bit of potassium would react with the air, explode, and show more potassium and that would explode, and so on and so forth.

Another experiment that they would show is  take a cube of potassium and I’m not sure how they did this exactly, but the cube is probably covered with potassium oxide of sorts. They would take this cube of potassium, cut all six sides of it very quickly, and then wait a few minutes. After a few minutes, they would snip off the corner of the cube and pour out liquid potassium. This would happen because the reaction of the air with the fresh potassium would cause it to heat up so much, it melted the potassium on the inside.

Yeah. Wow.

Now, we can discuss magnesium. Magnesium isn’t reactive, and it’s light, so it makes perfect sense to make ships out of in. In fact, that is exactly what Britain did during a war with Argentina. This didn’t go too well however, since fires on the ships could not be put out once started.

Strontium is another fun metal. A certain isotope of strontium, Sr-90, is used in atomic bombs. Well, Strontium can also be used to replace calcium in our bones. Our body needs calcium though, not strontium so this leads to anemia,  and leukemia. If it can replace the calcium in our muscles as well, then we are in serious trouble, because our muscles need calcium to contract.

Every spaceship is made out of metal.

I’m going to discuss some characteristics of metals and gases, based on the periodic table. One thing you must understand about the periodic table is that as you go down each row, the elements share common characteristics. This discussion will actually be a two part series, as next week I will share with you some interesting stories related to specific metals.

Yes, this actually makes sense.

We’ll start with Row 1A

1A metals are called the Alkaline metals.

This is the gray row on my table. These metals are generally shiny when fresh, but quickly tarnish when exposed to air. All of these metals react violently with water to produce hydrogen gas. These metals are so reactive that they are never found in pure forms in nature.

2A Elements: Alkaline Earth:

This is the green row. They are less reactive than Alkali metals (1A). The metallic character increases from top to bottom. Their reactivity in water varies a lot. Berylium (Be) does not react in water. Magnesium (Mg) reacts slowly with steam. Calcium (Ca), Strontium (Sr), and Barium (Ba) are reactive enough to attack cold water.

Group 3A:

Here we are jumping across to the column with one blue and the rest as pink. We’ll skip the yellow transition metals because they are funky. Boron (B) is actually a metalloid, meaning that it has characteristics of a metal and a nonmetal.  Boron is unreactive  towards oxygen and water. Aluminum is a fun metal however because when it reacts with air (namely oxygen), it forms aluminum oxide, which covers the rest of the aluminum metal with a sticky layer and prevents further breakdown. That is why aluminum doesn’t rust.


The only thing worth mentioning here is that lead and tin do not react with water, but they do react with acids.


There is nothing of particular interest in this group.


The only thing of interesting is we are now getting to the point where it is difficult to study Po, At and Rn, because they are so rare that it is difficult to find enough of it to study.

7A: Halogens.

All of these are generally found in a diatomic form, meaning that the two elements are joined together to get X2 naturally . They are also highly reactive and as such, never found in elementally form.

These also look pretty. Fluorine (F) is a green gas. Chlorine (Cl) is a yellow gas and it is also yellow as a liquid. Bromine (Br) is a red gas with a dark red liquid. Lastly Iodine (I) will condense without passing through the liquid phase and looks brownish. You can easily buy iodine actually. (At least, we have almost always had it on hand.)

8A: Noble Gases

All of these are gases. Most of them almost hardly react at all. Helium (He), Neon (Ne) and Argon (Ar) have not been induced to react with anything. The rest of them have reacted, but the product is oftentimes unstable. The number of compounds formed thus far can also be counted, whereas many other compounds formed from other elements cannot be.

The other fun things with these gases is that if you send energy through them, they produce light in many pretty colors, which should probably be a separate post completely.


As a side note: You guys are awesome! We broke 4000 views last night. Thanks everyone for that.