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Transition metal

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Periodic table of elements with the Transition Metals illustrated with black border.
A sample of highly reactive technetium.

The Transition metals are the elements that take up the d-black in the periodic table. They are Scandium, Titanium, Vanadium, Chromium, Manganese, Iron, Cobalt, Nickel, Copper, Zinc, Yttrium, Zirconium, [[Niobium], Molybdenum, Technetium, Ruthenium, Rhodium, Palladium, Silver, Cadmium, Hafnium, Tantalum, Tungsten, Rhenium, Osmium, Iridium, Platinum, Gold, Mercury, Rutherfordium, Dubnium, Seaborgium, Bohrium, Hassium, Meitnerium, Ununnilium, Unununium and Ununbium.[1] (note that these do not include the lanthanide and actinide elements which are sometimes included as "inner transition metals" but do not all share the same characteeristics). The transition metals have valence electrons in more than one shell and exhibit several common oxidation states. The term "Transition metal" was first used by English chemist Charles Bury in 1921.


the transition metal family, so named because of an old theory predicting them to be the link between pure metals and nonmetals, consist of the most common metal elements in the periodic table. This does not, mean that they are the most consistent elements however. In fact, transition metals are some of the most diverse elemental groups in the periodic table.

For instance some transition metals, like iron, oxidize and rust quite easily. However some, such as gold and platinum, are widely renowned for their resistance to corrosion. Also most transition metals, like gold and platinum for instance, are very solid in structure, where as other transition metals, like technetium which is radioactive and mercury which is liquid (see images), have very unstable physical forms. Despite their diversity, there are several chemical and physical properties that for the most part apply to all transition metals. [2]

Mercury is a bit of an unusual transition metal as it is the only one that is liquid in room temerature, as shown here.

Physical Properties

As a whole, transition metals display characteristics that one would associate to the common metal. Most are malleable, ductile and magnetic. They are also tough and strong and all (except mercury) remain reasonably strong and fully solid in room temperature. In many ways they have the same overall characteristics as the other metal families. They do, however, have fairly high densities, unlike the other metal groups[3] and are much less reactive as a whole than other metals. Transition metals also all form colored compounds.[4]

Chemical Properties

The highest energy electrons of transition metals occupy the d sub-level. Transition metal electrons, however, have little difficulty jumping from one sub-level to another. As a result they can combine with other atoms in a variety of ways. This is why metals like gold and platinum can resist corrosion over long periods of time where as copper and iron corrode easily when exposed to the right conditions.[5] Transition metals also share many general characteristics, for example, they all generally form stable complexes, with the exception of technetium, which is radioactive.

They also mostly form compounds that are catalytic and paramagnetic (which means they are weakly attracted to a magnetic source without retaining any permanent magnetism). Also, transition metals can form a huge variety of oxidation states, unlike s-block elements, which are limited to oxidation numbers of +1 or +2.[6]


An example of iron smelting
Most people would look at the transition metals and only notice elements such as gold, silver, or copper as effecting them in their everyday life. While these elements certainly play a major part in the role of transition metals, the other transition metals have a much greater impact on our lives than one might originally think. For instance steel, an iron byproduct, is used to make everything from bridges to sky scrapers and anything from air planes to house frames. Transition metals are the main component in the computers we use everyday. Everything razors to solar panels, iPhones to microwaves, flashlights to rail ways, would not be around if it were not for transition metals. Even the electricity coursing through the buildings we live in are solely conducted using transition metals.

Transition metals have been the ingredients man has used to develop society throughout the ages. In fact, whole periods of time have been named after transition metals due to their significant effect on industry and expansion of human technology. The Bronze age, (3300-1200 BC), is characterized as the time period when man learned to make bronze from combining copper and tin. Then came the Iron age, (1200-600 BC), so named because of the invention of smelting (see image) and the extreme growth of iron used in society. Before these ages everything man made was made out of either stone or wood. Now, in modern times, metals make up nearly everything we make and use. Transition metals even sustain our bodies and keep us alive. Iron used as hemoglobin, transports oxygen to the brain and muscles. Without iron, oxygen wouldn’t make it to the brain and life would not exist, making transition metals extremely important.[7]


Transition Metal Reactions


  1. Benton,Yinon.PeriodicTable:TransitionMetals Chemical Accessed November 13, 2016.
  2. Gray, Theodore W., Mann, Nick. The Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe. Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, New York, 2009. pg . Print.
  3. Cox, Heather E., Porch, Thomas E., and Wetzel, John S., Santopietro, Rachel, Batdorf, Brad R. Chemistry. Greenville, S.C: Bob Jones University Press, 2009. pg . Print.
  4. The transition metals BBC Science. WEB. Last accessed November 3, 2016.Unknown Author
  5. Cox, Heather E., Porch, Thomas E., and Wetzel, John S., Santopietro, Rachel, Batdorf, Brad R. Chemistry. Greenville, S.C: Bob Jones University Press, 2009. pg . Print.
  6. Lancashire, Robert J.What are transition metals? Return To Chemistry, UWI-Mona. WEB. Last accessed November 3, 2016.
  7. Bates,Daniel.The Importance of d-block Transition Metals Web. Last Accessed November 11, 2016.