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F-Block Elements on the Periodic Table: Properties & Overview

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  • 0:00 The F-Block
  • 0:36 The Periodic Table
  • 1:22 Atom Structure
  • 3:00 Back to the F-Block Elements
  • 4:10 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Marion Carroll

Marion is a 30-year veteran of industry and academia primarily in the fields of biochemistry and genomics.

The periodic table is a highly organized collection of the basic characteristics for all elements known to man. The atomic structure and characteristics of f-block elements are somewhat mysterious. Here's why.

The F-Block

The f-block, or f-sub-shell, is a peculiar part of the periodic table that gets very little attention but is highly respected. It contains the elements on the periodic table between atomic numbers 57 - 70 and 89 - 102, which are transition metals. Transition refers to an element's ability to lose and gain electrons. Most elements in the periodic table can do this but not as readily as the transition metals.

The Periodic Table

Understand that all elements of the universe, as we know them, are listed on the periodic table according to a number of different characteristics, in particular atomic mass or size. The top left of the periodic table begins with the smallest elements, hydrogen (H), lithium (Li), and beryllium (Be). The bottom right ends with the largest elements, xenon (Xe), astatine (At), and radon (Rn). The size or mass is determined by the atomic number, located above the element's symbol. Additionally, the periodic table is sectioned into 'blocks': s, p, d and f. These blocks, or sub-shells, are part of the electron organization within the atom.

Atom Structure

Where do these terms shell, sub-shell, and orbital come from? Recall that electrons, protons and neutrons are subatomic particles that come together to form the atom. To better imagine atomic structure, picture the solar system in which we live. The sun is the nucleus of this system just as protons and neutrons are the nucleus of the atom. The planets rotate and revolve around the sun at various speeds and trajectories, depending on their mass, distance from each other, and distance from the sun.

Similar forces are working on a much, much smaller scale when describing electrons that surround the atomic nucleus. Theoretically, as first calculated by the physicist Niels Bohr, electrons move in orbits (or orbitals), a term physicists prefer rather than sub-shells. Each orbital occupies different energy levels (or shells) that number from 1 to 7.

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