What is Bromine? - Definition, Facts & Uses

Instructor: Danielle Reid

Danielle has taught middle school science and has a doctorate degree in Environmental Health

Bromine is an active ingredient in pesticide spray, helping you to keep those annoying flies at bay. Let's learn more about bromine, its chemical properties, and its applications.

What is Bromine Anyway?

Making water taste better, controlling the pest population, and working to keep your lovely swimming pool clean, bromine is one tough chemical! Our brother bromine is a chemical element that can easily be spotted on the periodic table. Using Diagram 1 as a guide, you will see the bromine atom belongs to the halogen family. Gracious enough to take him in, some of his relatives include fluorine and iodine.

Location of Bromine on The Periodic Table

There are a few things to keep in mind when talking about bromine. When someone yells out, 'Hey bromine!' you will think of its dirty, red-brown color. Unfortunately, our brother bromine not only looks dirty, but it smells, too. Even worse, it is toxic to our health even though we use it for so many things. But before we get into that topic, let's learn some more about this molecule.

History of Bromine

So how does bromine take on that offensive title as smelling bad? Well, we don't have to look too far for the answer as it lies in the name itself. The root of bromine, bromos, means to smell really bad in Greek. Yes, it's official: bromine deserved this title!

In 1826, Antoine-Jerome Balard was working hard in a lab in Germany with a water solution that came from a nearby salt spring. When he added the chemicals chlorine and ether, he discovered something. Red-brown particles were now in the water. Eureka! He realized another element was present. I can only imagine that after nearly passing out from the stinky smell, he had no choice but to call this other element bromine.

Interesting Chemical Facts about Bromine

Bromine is a pretty fascinating element as it is one of only two elements that are liquids at room temperature. As a guess, what do you think the other element is? It is mercury, the lovely liquid found in our thermometers at room temperature. Bromine has a melting point of around -7 degrees Celsius and boiling point of around 59 degrees Celsius.

Diagram 2 provides a chemical drawing of bromine. And no, you are not seeing double; there are two bromine atoms present. Bromine is too unstable to exist as an individual atom in nature, so instead, two bromine atoms pair up to form molecular or diatomic bromine. Diatomic molecules are molecules that have two atoms that are either the same or different. Pure bromine can only be found as diatomic bromine in nature.

Element of Bromine Existing as a Diatomic Molecule

Also seen in the diagram are bromine's symbol and atomic number. The symbol is Br and its atomic number is 35. This tells us that bromine atoms have 35 protons in their nuclei, and it helps us pinpoint where bromine actually lives on the periodic table. With a somewhat small size in comparison to its fellow brothers and sisters on the periodic table, bromine has an atomic weight of 79.9 g/mol.

While diatomic bromine is stable enough to survive on its own in the environment, it is reactive. This means it loves to react with molecules like water and organic compounds. Given that it is best friends with water, it's not surprising that diatomic bromine is soluble in water.

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