Periodic Table - Transition Elements

For GCSE Chemistry an understanding of the periodic table is required. In this particular quiz we focus on the transition elements (or the transition metals), which are found between groups 2 and 3 (please note that a few schools teach group 3 is called group 13).

The transition elements are a family of metals that are found in the block at the centre of the periodic table between group 2, the alkaline earth metals, and group 3, the group that includes the important metal aluminium. Transition elements are often referred to as the transition metals and they include metals that you are very familiar with - iron, copper, silver, gold, zinc and others. Many other transition elements are used for everyday items including coins. Coins are made from metals that are 'self-sterilising'. This means that bacteria on the surface of the coin are killed by the metal.

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This part of the periodic table also includes metals that are commonly used in small quantities to form alloys, for example, chromium which is alloyed with iron and nickel to produce stainless steel, and titanium, which is alloyed with iron to make a very tough type of steel that is used for armour plating on military vehicles. When alloyed with other metals, titanium is also used for pipes in nuclear power stations and artificial hip joints! You may also have noticed that whenever you come across a chemical reaction that requires a catalyst, the catalyst is often a transition element or a compound of one.

Since they are metals, the transition elements conduct electricity, are ductile and malleable, have high melting points (except mercury), have high densities and so on. They are a lot less reactive than the other metals that you have studied, which is why some of them can be used for making jewellery. But there are some unique properties that you also need to know about. The main one is that they can form coloured compounds. Think about the compounds of copper that you have come across - copper sulphate is blue, copper carbonate is green and copper oxide is black. The iron compounds that you have met are also coloured, probably the one that you are most familiar with is the oxide of iron that you know as rust. But not all transition element compounds are coloured, zinc oxide is white for example (that's the chemical that turns pale yellow when you heat it).

Unlike the other metals, the transition elements can form several different ions, for example, iron can form Fe2+ and Fe3+ ions. Vanadium can form seven different ions. You will usually see a Roman numeral in parentheses after the name, which indicates the ion that is present e.g. copper (II) or iron (III). This appears in the names of the transition element compounds - copper sulphate should properly be called copper (II) sulphate to indicate that it is the Cu2+ ion that is present. This property, and the reason why they form coloured ions, is down to their electronic structure, which is more complicated than those of the first 20 elements. There is a partially filled electron shell between their third and fourth shells. Luckily you don't need to be able to draw the arrangement of electrons for these elements.

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  1. What does the Roman numeral in brackets after a transition element's name signify?
    e.g. Copper (II) is Cu2+ ions in a compound
  2. Where on the periodic table are the transition elements found?
    The transition elements are found in a block from scandium to zinc in the centre of the periodic table
  3. Which of the following is NOT a property of the transition metals?
    The transition metals are 'typical' metals with one exception
  4. Transition elements often form coloured compounds. Pick the correct colours for the following compounds.
    The brownish red of iron (III) is the distinctive colour we associate with rust
  5. Many of the properties of the transition metals are due to their electronic arrangement. How is this different to other metals?
    This property explains why the transition metals form coloured compounds and results in their use as catalysts
  6. Transition element compounds are often used as coloured pigments to stain glass and pottery. What colour does malachite (a copper compound) produce?
    Malachite is a naturally occurring mineral well known for its bright green colour. It is often used for jewellery and, due to its softness, for carving
  7. One alloy made from a transition element is bronze, produced from copper and tin. Bronze was used in the manufacture of swords. They were found to be much harder than swords made of pure copper or tin. Why are bronze swords harder than copper swords?
    In an exam question, a diagram will help you to explain this
  8. Many transition elements are mixed with other elements to form very useful alloys. Which of the following is NOT a correct mixture for a useful alloy?
    Stainless steel is made of iron, chromium and sometimes nickel
  9. Transition elements are often used as catalysts. Select the INCORRECT pairing of catalyst and process.
    Manganese (IV) oxide (MnO2) is used in the process of production of oxygen gas in the laboratory
  10. Which transition metal is the 'odd one out'?
    Mercury is the only metal that is a liquid at room temperature

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