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Atomic Structure

Periodic Trends

Electron Configuration and Valence Electrons

Periodic Trends, page 2

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In the SparkNote on the Periodic table we discussed a number of simple periodic trends. In this section we will discuss a number of more complex trends, the understanding of which relies on knowledge of atomic structure.

Before getting into these trends, we should engage a quick review and establish some terminology. As seen in the previous section on the octet rule, atoms tend to lose or gain electrons in order to attain a full valence shell and the stability a full valence shell imparts. Because electrons are negatively charged, an atom becomes positively or negatively charged as it loses or gains an electron, respectively. Any atom or group of atoms with a net charge (whether positive or negative) is called an ion. A positively charged ion is a cation while a negatively charged ion is an anion.

Now we are ready to discuss the periodic trends of atomic size, ionization energy, electron affinity, and electronnegativity.

Atomic Size (Atomic Radius)

The atomic size of an atom, also called the atomic radius, refers to the distance between an atom's nucleus and its valence electrons. Remember, the closer an electron is to the nucleus, the lower its energy and the more tightly it is held.

Moving Across a Period

Moving from left to right across a period, the atomic radius decreases. The nucleus of the atom gains protons moving from left to right, increasing the positive charge of the nucleus and increasing the attractive force of the nucleus upon the electrons. True, electrons are also added as the elements move from left to right across a period, but these electrons reside in the same energy shell and do not offer increased shielding.

Moving Down a Group

The atomic radius increases moving down a group. Once again protons are added moving down a group, but so are new energy shells of electrons. The new energy shells provide shielding, allowing the valence electrons to experience only a minimal amount of the protons' positive charge.

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