Terminology


Allotropes
Some elements exist in several different structural forms, these are called allotropes.


For more information on Murray Robertson’s image see Uses and properties facts below.

 

Fact box terminology


Group
Elements appear in columns or ‘groups’ in the periodic table. Members of a group typically have similar properties and electron configurations in their outer shell.


Period
Elements are laid out into rows or ‘periods’ so that similar chemical behaviour is observed in columns.


Block
Elements are organised into blocks by the orbital type in which the outer electrons are found. These blocks are named for the characteristic spectra they produce: sharp, principal, diffuse, and fundamental.


Atomic Number
The number of protons in the nucleus.


Atomic Radius/non -bonded (Å)
based on Van der Waals forces (where several isotopes exist, a value is presented for the most prevalent isotope). These values were calculated using a multitude of methods including crystallographic data, gas kinetic collision cross sections, critical densities, liquid state properties, for more details please refer to the CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics.


Electron Configuration
The arrangements of electrons above the last (closed shell) noble gas.


Isotopes
Elements are defined by the number of protons in its centre (nucleus), whilst the number of neutrons present can vary. The variations in the number of neutrons will create elements of different mass which are known as isotopes.


Melting Point (oC)
The temperature at which the solid-liquid phase change occurs.


Melting Point (K)
The temperature at which the solid-liquid phase change occurs.


Melting Point (oF)
The temperature at which the solid-liquid phase change occurs.


Boiling Point (oC)
The temperature at which the liquid-gas phase change occurs.


Boiling Point (K)
The temperature at which the liquid-gas phase change occurs.


Boiling Point (oF)
The temperature at which the liquid-gas phase change occurs.


Sublimation
Elements that do not possess a liquid phase at atmospheric pressure (1 atm) are described as going through a sublimation process.


Density (kgm-3)
Density is the weight of a substance that would fill 1 m3 (at 298 K unless otherwise stated).


Relative Atomic Mass
The mass of an atom relative to that of Carbon-12. This is approximately the sum of the number of protons and neutrons in the nucleus. Where more than one isotope exists the value given is the abundance weighted average.


Key Isotopes (% abundance)
An element must by definition have a fixed number of protons in its nucleus, and as such has a fixed atomic number, however variants of an element can exist with differing numbers of neutrons, and hence a different atomic masses (e.g. 12C has 6 protons and 6 neutrons and 13C has 6 protons and 7 neutrons).


CAS number
The Chemical Abstracts Service registry number is a unique identifier of a particular chemical, designed to prevent confusion arising from different languages and naming systems (where several isotopes exist, a value is presented for the most prevalent isotope).

Fact box

 
Group 12  Melting point 419.53 oC, 787.154 oF, 692.68 K 
Period Boiling point 907 oC, 1664.6 oF, 1180.15 K 
Block Density (kg m-3) 7135 
Atomic number 30  Relative atomic mass 65.409  
State at room temperature Solid  Key isotopes 64Zn 
Electron configuration [Ar] 3d104s2  CAS number 7440-66-6 
ChemSpider ID 22430 ChemSpider is a free chemical structure database
 

Uses and properties terminology


Image Explanation

Murray Robertson is the artist behind the images which make up Visual Elements. This is where the artist explains his interpretation of the element and the science behind the picture.


Natural Abundance

Where this element is most commonly found in nature.


Biological Roles

The elements role within the body of humans, animals and plants. Also functionality in medical advancements both today and years ago.


Appearance

The description of the element in its natural form.

Uses and properties

 
Image explanation
Alchemical symbol against an abstracted background based on zinc roofing materials.
Appearance
A grey metal with a blue tinge.
Uses

Zinc is used in alloys such as brass, nickel silver and aluminium solder. Large quantities of zinc are used to produce die-castings which are important in the automobile, electrical and hardware industries. It is also used extensively to galvanise other metals such as iron to prevent rusting. Zinc oxide is widely used in the manufacture of very many products such as paints, rubber, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, plastics, inks, soaps, batteries, textiles and electrical equipment. Zinc sulfide is used in making luminous dials and fluorescent lights.

Biological role

Zinc is essential for all living things, forming the active site in over 20 metallo-enzymes. The average human body contains about 2.5 grams and takes in about 15 milligrams per day. Some foods have above average levels of zinc, including herring, beef, lamb, sunflower seeds and cheese. Zinc can be carcinogenic in excess. When freshly-formed zinc(II) oxide is inhaled, a disorder called the “oxide shakes” or “zinc chills” can occur.

Natural abundance

Zinc is found in several ores, the principal ones being zinc blend and calamine. Commercially, zinc is obtained from its ores by concentrating and roasting the ore, then reducing it to zinc thermally with carbon or by electrolysis. World production exceeds 7 million tonnes a year.

 
Atomic data terminology

Atomic radius/non -bonded (Å)
Based on Van der Waals forces (where several isotopes exist, a value is presented for the most prevalent isotope). These values were calculated using a multitude of methods including crystallographic data, gas kinetic collision cross sections, critical densities, liquid state properties,for more details please refer to the CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics.


Electron affinity (kJ mol-1)
The energy released when an additional electron is attached to the neutral atom and a negative ion is formed (where several isotopes exist, a value is presented for the most prevalent isotope). *


Electronegativity (Pauling scale)
The degree to which an atom attracts electrons towards itself, expressed on a relative scale as a function bond dissociation energies, Ed in eV. χA - χB =(eV)-1/2sqrt(Ed(AB)-[Ed(AA)+Ed(BB)]/2), with χH set as 2.2 (where several isotopes exist, a value is presented for the most prevalent isotope).


1st Ionisation energy (kJ mol-1)
The minimum energy required to remove an electron from a neutral atom in its ground state (where several isotopes exist, a value is presented for the most prevalent isotope).


Covalent radius (Å)
The size of the atom within a covalent bond, given for typical oxidation number and coordination (where several isotopes exist, a value is presented for the most prevalent isotope). ***

Atomic data

 
Atomic radius, non-bonded (Å) 2.010 Covalent radius (Å) 1.2
Electron affinity (kJ mol-1) Not stable Electronegativity
(Pauling scale)
1.650
Ionisation energies
(kJ mol-1)
 
1st
906.402
2nd
1733.299
3rd
3832.684
4th
5731.224
5th
7969.682
6th
10420.408
7th
12929.024
8th
16788.435
 

Mining/Sourcing Information

Data for this section of the data page has been provided by the British Geological Survey. To review the full report please click here or please look at their website here.


Key for numbers generated


Governance indicators

1 (low) = 0 to 2

2 (medium-low) = 3 to 4

3 (medium) = 5 to 6

4 (medium-high) = 7 to 8

5 (high) = 9


Reserve base distribution

1 (low) = 0 to 30 %

2 (medium-low) = 30 to 45 %

3 (medium) = 45 to 60 %

4 (medium-high) = 60 to 75 %

5 (high) = 75 %

(Where data are unavailable an arbitrary score of 2 was allocated. For example, Be, As, Na, S, In, Cl, Ca and Ge are allocated a score of 2 since reserve base information is unavailable. Reserve base data are also unavailable for coal; however, reserve data for 2008 are available from the Energy Information Administration (EIA).)


Production Concentration

1 (low) = 0 to 30 %

2 (medium-low) = 30 to 45 %

3 (medium) = 45 to 60 %

4 (medium-high) = 60 to 75 %

5 (high) = 75 %


Crustal Abundance

1 (low) = 100 to 1000 ppm

2 (medium-low) =10 to 100 ppm

3 (medium) = 1 to 10 ppm

4 (medium-high) = 0.1 to 1 ppm

5 (high) = 0.1 ppm

(Where data are unavailable an arbitrary score of 2 was allocated. For example, He is allocated a score of 2 since crustal abundance data is unavailable.)


Explanations for terminology


Crustal Abundance (ppm)

The abundance of an element in the Earth's crust in parts-per-million (ppm) i.e. The number of atoms of this element per 1 million atoms of crust.


Sourced

The country with the largest reserve base.


Reserve Base Distribution

This is a measure of the spread of future supplies, recording the percentage of a known resource likely to be available in the intermediate future (reserve base) located in the top three countries.


Production Concentrations

This reports the percentage of an element produced in the top three countries. The higher the value, the larger risk there is to supply.


Total Governance Factor

The World Bank produces a global percentile rank of political stability. The scoring system is given below, and the values for all three production countries were summed.


Relative Supply Risk Index

The Crustal Abundance, Reserve Base Distribution, Production Concentration and Governance Factor scores are summed and then divided by 2, to provide an overall Relative Supply Risk Index.

Supply risk

 
Scarcity factor 4.0
Country with largest reserve base Australia
Crustal abundance (ppm) 72
Leading producer China
Reserve base distribution (%) 20.80
Production concentration (%) 27.20
Total governance factor(production) 7
Top 3 countries (mined)
  • 1) Australia
  • 2) China
  • 3) USA
Top 3 countries (production)
  • 1) China
  • 2) Peru
  • 3) Australia
 

Oxidation states and isotopes


Key for Isotopes


Half Life
  y years
  d days
  h hours
  m minutes
  s seconds
Mode of decay
  α alpha particle emission
  β negative beta (electron) emission
  β+ positron emission
  EC orbital electron capture
  sf spontaneous fission
  ββ double beta emission
  ECEC double orbital electron capture

Terminology


Common Oxidation states
The oxidation state of an atom is a measure of the degree of oxidation of an atom. It is defined as being the charge that an atom would have if all bonds were ionic. Free atoms have an oxidation state of 0, and the sum of oxidation numbers within a substance must equal the overall charge.


Important Oxidation states
The most common oxidation states of an element in its compounds.


Isotopes
Elements are defined by the number of protons in its centre (nucleus), whilst the number of neutrons present can vary. The variations in the number of neutrons will create elements of different mass which are known as isotopes.

Oxidation states and isotopes

 
Common oxidation states 2
Isotopes Isotope Atomic mass Natural abundance (%) Half life Mode of decay
  64Zn 63.929 48.268 > 7 x 1020 EC-β+ 
  66Zn 65.926 27.975
  67Zn 66.927 4.102
  68Zn 67.925 19.024
  70Zn 69.925 0.631 > 2.3 x 1016 β-β- 
 

Pressure and temperature - advanced terminology


Molar Heat Capacity (J mol-1 K-1)

Molar heat capacity is the energy required to heat a mole of a substance by 1 K.


Young's modulus (GPa)

Young's modulus is a measure of the stiffness of a substance, that is, it provides a measure of how difficult it is to extend a material, with a value given by the ratio of tensile strength to tensile strain.


Shear modulus (GPa)

The shear modulus of a material is a measure of how difficult it is to deform a material, and is given by the ratio of the shear stress to the shear strain.


Bulk modulus (GPa)

The bulk modulus is a measure of how difficult to compress a substance. Given by the ratio of the pressure on a body to the fractional decrease in volume.


Vapour Pressure (Pa)

Vapour pressure is the measure of the propensity of a substance to evaporate. It is defined as the equilibrium pressure exerted by the gas produced above a substance in a closed system.

Pressure and temperature data – advanced

 
Molar heat capacity
(J mol-1 K-1)
25.39 Young's modulus (GPa) 108.4
Shear modulus (GPa) 43.4 Bulk modulus (GPa) 72
Vapour pressure  
Temperature (K)
400 600 800 1000 1200 1400 1600 1800 2000 2200 2400
Pressure (Pa)
1.47
x 10-6
0.65 - - - - - - - - -
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History

Zinc was known to the Romans but rarely used. It was first recognised as a metal in its own right in India and the waste from a zinc smelter at Zawar, in Rajasthan, testifies to the large scale on which it was refined during the period 1100 to the 1500.


Zinc refining in China was carried out on a large scale by the 1500s. An East India Company ship which sank off the coast of Sweden in 1745 was carrying a cargo of Chinese zinc and analysis of reclaimed ingots showed them to be almost the pure metal.


In 1668, a Flemish metallurgist, P. Moras de Respour, reported the extraction of metallic zinc from zinc oxide, but as far as Europe was concerned zinc was discovered by the German chemist Andreas Marggraf in 1746, and indeed he was the first to recognise it as a new metal.

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Podcasts

Listen to Zinc Podcast
Transcript :

Chemistry in Its Element - Zinc


(Promo)

You're listening to Chemistry in its element brought to you by Chemistry World, the magazine of the Royal Society of Chemistry.

(End promo)

Chris Smith

This week the chemical behind calamine lotion for itchy skin, anti dandruff shampoo for a flaky scalp and underarm deodorant for - well, I think we've probably all stood next to someone whom we wish knew a bit more about the chemistry of zinc.   Here's Brian Clegg.

Brian Clegg

There aren't many elements with names that are onomatopoeic. Say 'oxygen' or 'iodine' and there is no clue in the sound of the word to the nature of the element. But zinc is different. Zinc - zinc - zinc - you can almost hear a set of coins falling into an old fashioned bath. It just has to be a hard metal.

In use, Zinc is often hidden away, almost secretive. It stops iron rusting, soothes sunburn, keeps dandruff at bay, combines with copper to make a very familiar gold-coloured alloy and keeps us alive, but we hardly notice it. This blue-grey metal, known commercially as spelter, is anything but flashy and attention-grabbing. Even the origins of that evocative name are uncertain. 

The dictionary tells us that the word zinc comes from the German (with a K at the end instead of a C), but how that name came into being is unknown. The earliest reference to zinc was in 1651. The substance was known before - objects with zinc in them date back over 2,500 years, and the Romans used that gold coloured alloy - but zinc wasn't identified as a distinct material in the west until the seventeenth century.

Represented in the periodic table as Zn, zinc is a transition metal, grouped with cadmium and mercury. With the middling atomic number 30, it has five stable isotopes of atomic weight from the dominant zinc 64 to zinc 70, plus an extra 25 radioisotopes. 

Because of its hazy origins, it's difficult to pin down one person as the discoverer of the element. Although it seems to have been refined in India as early as the twelfth century, the earliest specific claim to have produced the metal was back in 1668, and a process for extracting zinc from its oxide was patented in the UK in 1738 by metal trader William Champion. But it is usually the German chemist Andreas Marggraf who wins the laurels as 'discoverer' for his 1746 experiment isolating zinc.

Although zinc's history is more than a little hazy, there's no doubting its usefulness. You've only got to look at a galvanized metal roof or bucket to see zinc at work. Galvanization is named after Luigi Galvani, the man who made frog legs twitch with electric current, but galvanization has nothing to do with electrical showmanship. In fact electricity's role is surprisingly subtle.

The most common form of galvanization is hot dip galvanization, where iron or steel is slid through a bath of liquid zinc at around 460 degrees Celsius, forty degrees above its melting point. The coating prevents the object treated from rusting. Initially the zinc simply stops the air getting to the iron, but later the zinc corrodes in preference to iron in an electro-chemical process, acting as a so-called sacrificial anode. This is where the 'galvanic' part of the name comes in. Some galvanization is more literally electrical - car bodies, for example, are electroplated with zinc to apply a thin, even layer.

Zinc's electrical capabilities also extend to the most popular batteries. A traditional dry cell has an outer zinc casing acting as the anode (confusingly the anode, usually thought of as positive, is the negative end of a battery), while a carbon rod provides the cathode, the positive electrode. In the longer lasting alkaline batteries, the anode is formed from powdered zinc (giving more surface area for reaction), while the cathode is made up of the compound manganese dioxide.

But the most visible example of zinc at work doesn't give any indication of this greyish metal - instead it's in an alloy that mixes the sheen of gold with the common touch. When molten zinc and copper are mixed together, the result is bold as brass. In fact, it is brass. Everything from door fixings to decorative plaques for horse collars have been made in this flexible alloy. Any orchestra would be much poorer without its brass instruments. It's even likely to turn up in the zips on your clothing.

Well-polished brass has a pleasant glow - but our most intimate contact with zinc, or to be precise zinc oxide - often comes when dealing with the unwanted glow of sunburn. When I was young and there was little in the way of sun block, sunburned skin would be lavishly coated in soothing pink calamine lotion. The primary ingredient of this is zinc oxide, which is white - it's small amounts of iron oxide that give it that colour. Even now, though, when we can avoid the need for calamine, zinc oxide plays its part. Called Chinese white when it's used in paints, zinc oxide is a good absorber of ultraviolet light - so sun block often contains a suspension of tiny zinc oxide particles - as does most mineral-based makeup.

And that's just the start for this versatile oxide. You'll find it used in fire retardants and foods - where it fortifies the likes of breakfast cereals - in glass and ceramics, in glues and rubber. That surprise appearance on the breakfast table reflects another important side to zinc. We need it to stay healthy. It's one of the trace elements, nutrients that our bodies need in small quantities to keep functioning. It's often present in vitamin supplements, though most of us get plenty from meat and eggs. The zinc ends up in various proteins, particularly in enzymes involved in the development of the body, digestion and fertility. A shortage of zinc in the diet can lead to delayed healing, skin irritation and loss of the sense of taste, and encourages many chronic illnesses.

With zinc also appearing in anti-dandruff shampoos in the form of zinc pyrithione and in underarm deodorants as zinc chloride, this is an element that even makes us more attractive to the opposite sex. Zinc is a hidden star. We're rarely aware of it, unlike its flashier neighbours in the period table, but zinc is a workhorse element that helps us all.

Chris Smith

Bristolbased science writer Brian Clegg with the onomatopoeic element, zinc.   Next week, what's lurking in your basement. 

Katherine Holt

The first reports of problems associated with radon gas in domestic buildings was in the United States in 1984, when an employee at a nuclear power plant began setting off the radiation detector alarms on his way into work. The problem was eventually traced to his home, where the level of radon gas in the basement was found to be abnormally high. 

Chris Smith

But where was it coming from and what was the risk to his health.   Katherine Holt will be here with all of the answers and the rest of the Radon story on next week's Chemistry in its Element, I do hope you can join us.   I'm Chris Smith, thank you for listening, and goodbye. 

(Promo)

Chemistry in its element is brought to you by the Royal Society of Chemistry and produced by thenakedscientists dot com. There's more information and other episodes of Chemistry in its element on our website at chemistryworld dot org forward slash elements.   

(End promo)

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Resources

Description :
In this demonstration an intimate mixture of zinc and sulphur produces an unusual chemical reaction when heated. A brilliant flash of light, followed by hot sparks, a hissing sound and a mushroom-sha...
Description :
The Periodic Table allows chemists to see similarities and trends in the properties of chemical elements. This experiment illustrates some properties of the common transition elements and their compo...
Description :
A sample of glass is made by heating a mixture of lead oxide, zinc oxide and boric acid strongly until it melts. The glass formed can be coloured by adding traces of various transition metal oxides.
Description :
This experiment involves the synthesis of a metal salt by direct reaction of a metal and a non-metal. Zinc powder is added to a solution of iodine in ethanol. An exothermic redox reaction occurs, for...
Description :
This demonstration shows that an ionic salt will conduct electricity when molten but not when solid. Zinc chloride is used - this will melt at Bunsen burner temperatures.
Description :
This experiment involves producing a salt by reacting a Group 7 element (iodine) with zinc. This is an example of salt preparation by direct synthesis.
 

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References

 
Images:  Visual Elements © Murray Robertson 2011
Mining and Sourcing data:  British Geological Survey – natural environment research council.
Text:  John Emsley Nature’s Building Blocks: An A-Z Guide to the Elements, Oxford University Press, 2nd Edition, 2011.
Additional information for platinum, gold, neodymium and dysprosium obtained from Material Value Consultancy Ltd www.matvalue.com
Data: CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics, CRC Press, 92nd Edition, 2011.
G. W. C. Kaye and T. H. Laby Tables of Physical and Chemical Constants, Longman, 16th Edition, 1995.
Members of the RSC can access these books through our library.