Alkali Metals: Uses and Properties

chase smith, Julie Zundel
  • Author
    chase smith

    Chase is a 14 year veteran science teacher with a specialization is chemistry/STEM. He has a Bachelors Degree in Chemistry and a Master's Degree in Instructional Media with a specialization in STEM.

  • Instructor
    Julie Zundel

    Julie has taught high school Zoology, Biology, Physical Science and Chem Tech. She has a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a Master of Education.

Learn about the alkali metals group and explore the group 1A elements. Understand their charge, valence electrons, ions, and find out whether they are soft or hard. Updated: 02/05/2022

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Alkali Metals Group

The alkali metals group consists of six specific elements on the Periodic Table of Elements. These six elements can be found in the first vertical column on the periodic table underneath the first element, Hydrogen. These six elements can also be called Group 1 or Group 1A elements as well, because they are in the first vertical column on the periodic table. The name alkali metals stems from an Arabic word, al qaliy, meaning calcified ashes.


The Alkali Metals located on the far left in red.

Group 1a Periodic Table


In this image, focus on the location of the dark red elements on the far left side of the table. This provides a visual of the location of these six elements discussed in this lesson.

Why Are They Called Alkali Metals?

What are Group 1 elements called? These elements are called alkali metals because of the alkaline compounds that they make when in combination with water. Alkaline compounds make hydroxides after they have been reacted in water, which is a basic solution. Basic solutions are often referred to as being alkaline.

These elements can be found in nature but are highly reactive and are difficult to find in an unreacted state as a result.


Potassium

Potassium


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Group 1A Elements

There are six elements that make up the alkali metals. Those six elements are:

  • Lithium, Li
  • Sodium, Na
  • Potassium, K
  • Rubidium, Rb
  • Cesium, Cs
  • Francium, Fr

A mnemonic device to remember these elements in order would be: Little Naughty Kids Ruin Chocolates Forever.


Lithium metal

Lithium


Properties of Alkali Metals

The elements within each family on the periodic table tend to have the same properties as other elements within that family. The alkali metals are no exception to that generalization. Alkali metals all have the same physical and chemical properties:

Properties of Alkali metals
Soft, Grey Metals
Very reactive, especially in water
contain one valence electron in the outer shell
high thermal and electrical conductivity
high luster (shiny)
malleable (bendable)
ductile

How Many Valence Electrons Are in Group 1A?

The defining characteristic of the alkali metals is the reactivity that they have towards water. This reactivity is directly related to having only one valence electron. By only having one valence electron, the alkali metals are very close to establishing a full valence shell for which all atoms strive. The one valence electron of the alkali metals will actually create distance from the nucleus in hopes to entice a non-metal to pull the electron away in the form of an ionic bond.

Alkali Metals Charge and Ions

The loss of the valence electron mentioned in the previous section leads to the alkali metals creating a charged particle known as an ion. An ion refers to the form of an element that is electrically charged due to the loss/gain of an electron in order to create a full valence shell of electrons.

Since alkali metals have one valence electron in the elemental form, the loss of that one electron to create an ion makes the charge a positive one. The positive one charge refers to the relationship between the number of protons to the number of electrons. Positive 1 charge means there is one more proton than electron. The term used in chemistry for an element that has formed a positive ion is called a cation.

As an element that forms a positive charge, it is essential for it to bond with an element that is able to make a negative charge. Negatively charged ions, called anions, are non-metals in nature. The combination of a cation and an anion into a compound creates an ionic bond.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are the characteristics of Group 1A elements?

Group 1A metals are known to be highly reactive metals when contacted with water. They all have 1 valence electron and are highly reactive. These are soft metals that are typically a dull grey in color.

Why are Group 1A called alkali metals?

The word "alkali" received its name from the Arabic word "al qali," meaning "from ashes", which since these elements react with water to form hydroxide ions, creating alkaline solutions. Alkaline solutions are known to be basic in pH.

What group is the alkali metals?

The alkali metals are found in the first vertical group on the periodic table. This group is known as Group 1, Group I, or Group IA.

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