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 14  Melting point 231.93 oC, 449.474 oF, 505.08 K 
Period Boiling point 2586 oC, 4686.8 oF, 2859.15 K 
Block Density (kg m-3) 7285 
Atomic number 50  Relative atomic mass 118.71  
State at room temperature Solid  Key isotopes 120Sn 
Electron configuration [Kr] 4d105s25p2  CAS number 7440-31-5 
ChemSpider ID 4509318 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
A common alchemical symbol for tin used here as an embossment for a “tin” can. Tin cans were traditionally made from tin coated steel.
Appearance
A soft pliable metal but it is not used as such because, below 13° C, it slowly changes to a powder. Steel is plated with tin to make cans, and it is also used for solders. Some tin compounds are employed as anti-fouling paint for ships and boats to prevent barnacles, but even at low levels, these compounds are deadly to marine life especially oysters. Tin is thought to be an essential element for some living things and this may also be true for humans.
Uses
Tin has many uses. It takes a high polish and is used to coat other metals to prevent corrosion, such as in tin cans which are made of tin-coated steel. Alloys of tin are important, such as soft solder, pewter, bronze and phosphor bronze. The most important tin salt used is tin(II) chloride which is used as a reducing agent and as a mordant. Tin salts sprayed onto glass are used to produce electrically conductive coatings. Most window glass is made by floating molten glass on molten tin to produce a flat surface. Recently, a tin-niobium alloy that is superconductive at very low temperatures has attracted interest.
Biological role
Tin is non-toxic. Trialkyl and triaryl tin compounds are used as biocides and must be handled with care.
Natural abundance
Tin is found mainly in the ore cassiterite, which is found in Brazil, China, Peru, Indonesia, Thailand and Nigeria. It is obtained commercially by reducing the ore with coal in a reverberatory furnace.
 
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) 2.170 Covalent radius (Å) 1.4
Electron affinity (kJ mol-1) 107.26 Electronegativity
(Pauling scale)
1.960
Ionisation energies
(kJ mol-1)
 
1st
708.578
2nd
1411.792
3rd
2943.051
4th
3930.329
5th
6973.954
6th
-
7th
-
8th
-
 

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 6.0
Country with largest reserve base China
Crustal abundance (ppm) 1.7
Leading producer China
Reserve base distribution (%) 31.80
Production concentration (%) 39.10
Total governance factor(production) 9
Top 3 countries (mined)
  • 1) China
  • 2) Brazil
  • 3) Peru
Top 3 countries (production)
  • 1) China
  • 2) Indonesia
  • 3) Peru
 

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 4, 2
Isotopes Isotope Atomic mass Natural abundance (%) Half life Mode of decay
  112Sn 111.905 0.97
  114Sn 113.903 0.66
  115Sn 114.903 0.34
  116Sn 115.902 14.54
  117Sn 116.903 7.68
  118Sn 117.902 24.22
  119Sn 118.903 8.59
  120Sn 119.902 32.58
  122Sn 121.903 4.63
  124Sn 123.905 5.79 > 2.2 x 1018 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)
26.99 Young's modulus (GPa) 49.9
Shear modulus (GPa) 18.4 Bulk modulus (GPa) 58.2
Vapour pressure  
Temperature (K)
400 600 800 1000 1200 1400 1600 1800 2000 2200 2400
Pressure (Pa)
- - 1.26
x 10-9
8.62
x 10-6
3.1
x 10-3
0.21 4.85 56.3 - - -
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History

Tin had a direct impact on human history mainly on account of bronze, although it could be used in its own right, witness a tin ring and pilgrim bottle found in an Egyptian tomb of the eighteenth dynasty (1580–1350 BC). The Chinese were mining tin around 700 BC in the province of Yunnan. Pure tin has also been found at Machu Picchu, the mountain citadel of the Incas.


When copper was alloyed with around 5 per cent of tin it produced bronze, which not only melted at a lower temperature, so making it easier to work, but produced a metal that was much harder, and ideal for tools and weapons. The Bronze Age is now a recognised stage in the development of civilisation. How bronze was discovered we do not know, but the peoples of Egypt, Mesopotamia, and the Indus valley started using it around 3000 BC.

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Podcasts

Listen to Tin Podcast
Transcript :

Chemistry in its Element - Tin


  (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

Hello, this week the element that changed the course of industry and also gave birth to the Bronze Age.   We find out why the Romans came to Britain and why your organ can go out of tune in winter perhaps irreversibly.   But tin fans should watch out because much of what we call tin isn't.

Katherine Holt

Tin cans, tin foil, tin whistles, tin soldiers.....these are that things that come to mind when we think of tin. Which is unfortunate, as tin cans are actually made from steel; tin foil is made from aluminium and tin whistles....well you get the idea. To be associated with a list of obsolete consumable items is especially unfortunate for tin, when we consider that it was responsible for literally changing civilisation! Have you heard of the Bronze Age? Well, some enterprising metal workers at the end of the Stone Age discovered that the addition of a small amount of tin into molten copper resulted in a new alloy. It was harder than copper but also much easier to shape, mould and sharpen. This discovery was so revolutionary that that Bronze Age was born - a name given to any civilisation which made tools and weapons from this alloy of copper and tin. 

So important was tin that the secrets of its trade were closely guarded. The ancient Greeks spoke of the 'Cassiterides ' or 'Tin Islands' which were believed to lie off the north west coast of Europe.   These mysterious islands have never been identified and probably never existed. All the Greeks knew was that tin came to them by sea and from the north-west and so the story arose of the tin islands.   It is likely the tin came from northern Spain and from Cornwall. In fact, the strategic importance of the Cornish tin mines is considered one of the reasons why the Roman Empire invaded Britain. 

Tin may have played another historical role - this time in the defeat of Napolean's army in the Russian campaign of 1812. It has been claimed that in the severe cold the tin buttons on the soldier's uniforms disintegrated into powder, leading to severe loss of life from hypothermia. The accuracy of this story is debatable, but the transformation of tin from a shiny metal into a grey powder at low temperatures is chemical fact. 

In the cold winters of Northern Europe the loss of tin organ pipes as they began to disintegrate into dust has been known for centuries as 'tin pest', 'tin disease' or 'tin leprosy'. This process is actually a very simple chemical transformation of one structural form of tin - silvery, metallic 'white tin' or 'beta tin' - into another - brittle, non-metallic 'grey tin' or 'alpha tin'. For pure tin the transition occurs at 13.2 oC but the transition temperature is lower, or does not occur at all, if there are enough impurities present, for example if tin is alloyed with another metal.

A modern day problem with 'tin pest' has thus arisen, as the tin-lead alloys used to coat leads in electrical equipment have sometimes been replaced with pure tin due to new environmental legislation. In cold temperatures the metallic beta tin coating transforms into non-conducting, brittle alpha tin and falls off the leads. The loose alpha tin powder then moves around inside the equipment, but because it is non-conducting it doesn't cause a problem. However, in warmer temperatures this alpha tin powder transforms back to conducting beta tin, leading to short circuits and all kinds of problems. 

The way to defeat 'tin pest' is to mix tin with other metals, and these days tin is mainly used to form alloys - for example bronze, pewter and solders. Since tin is the most tonally resonant of all metals it is used in bell metals and to make organ pipes, which are generally a mix of 50:50 tin and lead. The proportion of tin generally determines the pipe's tone. 

And so we return to the humble tin can. Although not made from tin, cans are often coated with tin on the inside to prevent corrosion. So while it may now seem that tin plays a small role in our everyday lives, remember that once it figured in the rise and fall of civilisations.

Chris Smith

So it was the tin that lured the Romans to Britain - funny that, there was me thinking   it was the wonderful weather.   Telling Tin's tale was Katherine Holt from UCL.   Next week the substance that makes you see red. 

Brian Clegg

If you are listening to this podcast on a computer with a traditional colour monitor Europium will be enhancing your view of the Chemistry World website.  When colour TVs were first developed, the red pixels were relatively weak, which meant the whole colour spectrum had to be kept muted. But a phosphor doped with europium proved a much better, brighter source of red and is still present in most surviving monitors and TVs that predate the flat screen revolution.

 

Chris Smith

And you can hear from Brian Clegg how the power of Europium was harnessed in the first place and how it was discovered on next week's Chemistry in its Element, I hope you can join us.  Until then, I'm Chris Smith, thank you for listening and goodbye.

(Promo)

Chemistry in its elementis 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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  Help Text

Resources

Description :
We discover how to extract lead from lead(II) oxide. We mix lead(II) oxide with charcoal powder and then heat the mixture using a Bunsen burner. It glows bright red as a reaction occurs and after a fe...
Description :
The reactions of group IV elements
Description :
In this experiment, carbon that has undergone special treatment to make it into decolourising carbon is shown to remove colour and odour from various solutions. This form of carbon is sometimes calle...
Learn Chemistry: Your single route to hundreds of free-to-access chemistry teaching resources.
 

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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.