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Topic 2: HL

Electron Configuration and the Periodic Table

Ionization energy is the minimum amount of

energy required to remove an electron from a
gaseous atom.
Ionization energies are measured in kJ mol1
(kilojoules per mole). They vary in size from
381 (which you would consider very low) up to
11,600 + (which is very high).

Factors affecting the size of ionization energy

The charge on the nucleus.
The distance of the electron from the
The number of electrons between the outer
electrons and the nucleus (shielding).
Whether the electron is on its own in an
orbital or paired with another electron. An
electron in a doubly occupied orbital is
easier repelled by its partner and so is
easier to remove than an electron in a half
filled orbital.

A graph of 1st ionization energies for the first 20

elements accounts for the existence of main
energy levels and sublevels.

Boron has a lower ionization energy than beryllium

due to the shielding that the 2s electrons provide
the 2p electron. The nuclear protons have less
hold on the 2p electron and so it is easier to

Why is the 1st ionization of O less than N?

The 2p orbital of nitrogen is half
filled. It is considered to be a stable
configuration because there is equal
exchange of energies between the
electrons of 2p orbital

In case of Oxygen the configuration is one more than
half filled configuration. Oxygen would readily loose an
electron to attain a stable configuration that is half
filled configuration.

The 1st ionization energy of S is less than at of P

The p orbital of phosphorous is half filled with 3 electrons with

the same spin and therefore it is stable. In sulfur, there are 4
electrons in the p orbital and it can rid of the one electron to
make the orbital half filled and thus become more stable.

Successive ionization energies for the same

element provide evidence for the electron
arrangement in each shell.
Al(g) Al+(g) + 1 e- I1 = 580 kJmol-1
Al+(g) Al2+(g) + 1 e- I2 = 1815 kJmol-1
Al2+(g) Al3+(g) + 1 e- I3 = 2740 kJmol-1
Al3+(g) Al4+(g) + 1 e- I4 = 11,600 kJmol-1
As more electrons are removed, the electrostatic
pull of the protons holds the remaining electrons
more tightly as so more energy is needed to
remove them. A logarithmic scale is used to show
the ionization energies.

Example In the following table identify the groups to which the

elements X, Y and Z belong.
It may be seen that the inflection (relatively bigger jump) for element
X occurs between 1st and 2nd ionization energies. It is therefore in
group 1.
Similarly the inflection for Y occurs between the 2nd and 3rd ionization
energies and so it is in group 2.

1. The first ionization energy of sodium is 494 kJ mol-1. Write the equation which
represents the reaction occurring during the first ionization energy of sodium.
2. Hydrogen has an electronic structure of 1s1 ; helium is 1s2 . Explain why helium's
first ionization energy (2370 kJ mol-1) is much higher than hydrogen's (1310 kJ
3. One of the factors which affects first ionization energy is the nuclear charge.
Lithium has 1 more proton than helium (and so a greater nuclear charge), and yet
its first ionization energy is much lower (519 kJ mol-1). Explain why.
4. In both Periods 2 and 3, although there are some fluctuations, the main trend is
for first ionization energy to increase across both periods. Explain why that is.
5. The first ionization energy of each element in Period 3 is less than that for the
corresponding element in Period 2. For example, magnesium in Group 2 has a first
ionization energy of 736 kJ mol-1, whereas beryllium, above it in the same group,
has a first ionization energy of 900 kJ mol-1 . Using magnesium and beryllium as
an example, explain why first ionization energies in Period 3 are smaller than the
corresponding ones in Period 2.
6. Explain why aluminums' first ionization energy (577 kJ mol-1) is less than
magnesium's (736 kJ mol-1).

1. Na(g) Na+ (g) + e- The state symbols are essential. If you haven't included them, or got one of them
wrong, then the answer is worthless.
2. The electron is being removed from the same orbital as in hydrogen's case. In both cases, the electrons
are close to the nucleus and unscreened. Helium's first ionization energy is much higher than
hydrogen's, because the nucleus now has 2 protons attracting the electrons instead of 1
3. Lithium's electronic structure is 1s2 2s1 . The 2s electron (which is the one which will be lost) is further
from the nucleus, and screened from it by the 1s electrons. This more than offsets any extra attraction
due to the extra proton.
4. In Period 2, the outer electrons are all in 2-level orbitals, which are all at much the same sort of
distance from the nucleus. They are all screened by the 1s electrons. As you go across the period, the
number of protons in the nucleus increases, increasing the attraction on the 2-level electron which will
be removed. In Period 3, the same thing is true, except that we are now talking about 3- level
electrons, screened by 1s, 2s and 2p electrons. Because attractions increase, ionisation energy will also
5. Magnesium's electronic structure is 1s2 2s2 2p6 3s2 ; beryllium's is 1s2 2s2 . Magnesium has 8 more
protons in the nucleus than beryllium has, but the extra effect of these is screened by the 8 electrons
in the complete 2-level in magnesium. The magnesium's first ionization energy is less than beryllium's
because the electron being removed is in the 3-level rather than the 2-level, and so is further from the
attraction of the nucleus.
6. Aluminums' electronic structure is 1s2 2s2 2p6 3s2 3px 1 ; magnesium's is 1s2 2s2 2p6 3s2 . The electron
being removed in aluminum is in a 3p orbital which has a slightly higher energy than a 3s orbital, and is
slightly further, on average, from the nucleus. Being further away makes the attraction less, and the 3p
electron is also screened slightly by the 3s electrons. The effect of this outweighs the effect of the
extra proton.