Steve Marsden’s

The Boron-Aluminum Family

  • 6
    This page contains brief profiles and pictures of each of the elements in the traditional Group IVA (or IVB, depending on which side of the Atlantic you live on!) or what is now somewhat optimistically called Group 14. More information can be found via the WWW links following each element. However, as these links are to other servers on the Internet you will need to use the BACK button on your browser to return to this page. Credits for the photos and principal links can be found at the end of this document.
  • C

    Carbon is the fourth most abundant element in the known universe but not nearly as common on the earth, despite the fact that living organisms contain significant amounts of the element. Common carbon compounds in the environment include the gases carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4).

    Carbon exists in several forms called allotropes. Diamond is one form with a very strong crystal lattice, known as a precious gem from the most ancient records. Graphite is another allotrope in which the carbon atoms are arranged in planes which are loosely attracted to one another (hence its use as a lubricant). The recently discovered fullerenes (see link on homepage) are yet another form of carbon.

    Most elemental carbon is taken from the ground in the form of coal but certainly diamonds should not be ignored! Carbon has a very high melting and boiling point and rapidly combines with oxygen at elevated temperatures. In small amounts it is an excellent hardener for iron, yielding the various steel alloys upon which so much of modern construction depends.

    An important (but rare) radioactive isotope of carbon, C-14, is used to date ancient objects of organic origin. It has a half-life of 5730 years but there is only 1 atom of C-14 for every 1012 atoms of C-12 (the usual isotope of carbon).

    More background information on C More data on C
  • Si

    The name for silicon is taken from the Latin silex which means "flint". The element is second only to oxygen in abundance in the earth's crust and was discovered by Berzelius in 1824. The most common compound of silicon, SiO2, is THE most abundant chemical compound in the earth's crust. We know it better as common beach sand.

    Silicon is a crystalline semi-metal or metalloid. One of its forms is shiny, grey and very brittle (it will shatter when struck with a hammer). In another allotropic form silicon is a brown amorphous powder most familiar in "dirty" beach sand. The crystalline form of silicon is the foundation of the semiconductor age.

    More background information on Si More data on Si
  • Ge

    Like silicon, germanium is used in the manufacture of semi-conductor devices. Unlike silicon, it is rather rare (only about 1 part in 10 million parts in the earth's crust). The metalloid was one of the elements predicted by Mendeleev in 1871 (ekasilicon) to fill out his periodic table and was discovered in 1886 by Winkler.

    The physical and chemical properties of germanium closely parallel those of silicon. Although it forms a compound, germanium dioxide, just like silicon, it is generally extracted from the by-products of zinc refining.

    More background information on Ge More data on Ge
  • Sn

    Mentioned in the Hebrew scriptures, tin is of ancient origins. Early metal smiths were quick to learn that mixing copper with tin created a more durable metal (bronze) and it is principally for its alloys that tin is valued today.

    Named after the Etruscan god Tinia, the chemical symbol for tin is taken from the Latin stannum. The metal is silvery white and very soft when pure. It has the look of freshly cut aluminum but the feel of lead. Polished tin is slightly bluish. It has been used for many years in the coating of steel cans for food because it is more resistant to corrosion than iron. It forms a number of useful low-melting alloys (solders) which are used to connect electrical circuits. Bending a bar of tin produces a characteristic squealing sound called "tin cry".

    Perhaps one of the most familiar of tin compounds, SnF2, tin(II) fluoride, goes by the trade name of fluoristan and is found in some fluoride toothpastes.

    More background information on Sn More data on Sn
  • Pb

    Known to the ancients, lead takes its name from the Anglo-Saxon word for the metal and its symbol comes from the Latin plumbum (from which we get the modern word "plumber" since old plumbing was done with lead pipes).

    Although lead is not very common in the earth's crust, what is there is readily available and easy to refine. Its chief use today is in lead-acid storage batteries such as those used in automobiles. In pure form it is too soft to be used for much else. Lead has a blue-white color when first cut but quickly dulls on exposure to air, forming Pb2O, one of the few lead(I) compounds. Most stable lead compounds contain lead in oxidation states of +2 or +4.

    Various isotopes of lead come at the end of the natural decay series of elements like uranium, thorium and actinium. These are Pb-206, Pb-207 and Pb-208

    More background information on Pb More data on Pb
  • Uuq
    no images of Ununquadium available

    The synthesis of element 114 was reported in January of 1999 by scientists from the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna (near Moscow) and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (in California). In an experiment lasting more than 40 days Russian scientists bombarded a film of Pu-244 supplied by Livermore scientists with a beam of Ca-48. One atom of element 114 was detected with a half-life of more than 30 seconds. This is about 100,000 times as long as the previously longest-lived isotope of 112 produced (element 113 has yet to be made) and bolsters the arguments of theorists who envision an "island of stability" in the super-heavy elements. Confirmation of the work has not been done and no name or symbol has been suggested.

Sources: Photos of the elements were taken from the LIFE Science Library book Matter. Background links go to the Periodic Table created at Los Alamos National Laboratories by Robert Husted. Data links go to the primary site of Mark Winter's WebElements, version 2.0, at the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom.