10. Playing with a Full Deck:
       The Periodic Table
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       The Transition Metals

The transition metals in Row 5 are larger than those in Row 4, as expected from their additional shell of electrons. But those in Row 6 are almost identical in size to the corresponding ones of Row 5, even though orbitals of higher principal quantum number are being filled. This phenomenon is known as the lanthanide contraction after lanthanum, the first metal in the series. The insertion of the fourteen f-orbital elements causes an increase in the nuclear charge of +14 by the time hafnium (Z = 72) is reached, thereby pulling all the electrons closer in. In Group VIB, molybdenum (Mo) has a nuclear charge +18 greater than chromium (Cr), but tungsten (W), below Mo, has a +32 greater nuclear charge than molybdenum. The atomic radii accordingly are Cr, 1. 18Å; Mo, 1.30Å; and W, 1.30Å.

This near-identity in size between the second and third series of transition metals causes them to have similar chemical properties, which often are quite different than those of the metals above them in the first series. Niobium (Nb) and tantalum (Ta) are almost identical in behavior 3 and are less like vanadium (V). Ruthenium (Ru) and osmium (0s) are similar, but are quite different from iron (Fe). Iron, cobalt (Co), and nickel (Ni) in the first transition-metal series have more properties in common than with the six metals below them.


Titanium (Ti), manganese, iron, and nickel make up nearly 2.5% of the crust of the Earth, and the other transition metals are rarer. All of the Row 4 transition metals except Sc, Ti, and Ni are essential to living organisms, as is only one metal from later rows, molybdenum (Mo). Iron is used along with a delocalized aromatic ring as the oxygen-binding agent in hemoglobin, and as an oxidation-reduction carrier in the cytochromes, where it accepts and gives up an electron and fluctuates between the +2 and +3 oxidation states. Copper also is found in oxidation-reduction proteins, and goes from the +1 to the +2 state and back again. The other six essential transition metals (V, Cr, Mn, Co, Zn, and Mo) generally are bound in the +2 state to enzymes, in which they push and pull electrons in other molecules during catalysis.

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