There are 18 vertical columns, or groups, in the standard periodic table. At present, there are three versions of the periodic table, each with its own unique column headings, in wide use. The three formats are the old International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) table, the Chemical Abstract Service (CAS) table, and the new IUPAC table. The old IUPAC system labeled columns with Roman numerals followed by either the letter A or B. Columns 1 through 7 were numbered IA through VIIA, columns 8 through 10 were labeled VIIIA, columns 11 through 17 were numbered IB through VIIB and column 18 was numbered VIII. The CAS system also used Roman numerals followed by an A or B. This method, however, labeled columns 1 and 2 as IA and IIA, columns 3 through 7 as IIIB through VIB, column 8 through 10 as VIII, columns 11 and 12 as IB and IIB and columns 13 through 18 as IIIA through VIIIA. However, in the old IUPAC system the letters A and B were designated to the left and right part of the table, while in the CAS system the letters A and B were designated to the main group elements and transition elements respectively. (The preparer of the table arbitrarily could use either an upper-or lower-case letter A or B, adding to the confusion.) Further, the old IUPAC system was more frequently used in Europe while the CAS system was most common in America. In the new IUPAC system, columns are numbered with Arabic numerals from 1 to 18. These group numbers correspond to the number of
The horizontal rows of the table are called periods. The elements of a period are characterized by the fact that they have the same number of electron shells; the number of electrons in these shells, which equals the element's atomic number, increases from left to right within each period. In each period the lighter metals appear on the left, the heavier metals in the center, and the nonmetals on the right. Elements on the borderline between metals and nonmetals are called metalloids.
Group 1 (with one valence electron) and Group 2 (with two valence electrons) are called the alkali metals and the alkaline-earth metals, respectively. Two series of elements branch off from Group 3, which contains the transition elements, or transition metals; elements 57 to 71 are called the lanthanide series, or rare earths, and elements 89 to 103 are called the actinide series, or radioactive rare earths; a third set, the superactinide series (elements 122–153), is predicted to fall outside the main body of the table, but none of these has yet been synthesized or isolated. The nonmetals in Group 17 (with seven valence electrons) are called the halogens. The elements grouped in the final column (Group 18) have no valence electrons and are called the inert gases, or noble gases, because they react chemically only with extreme difficulty.
See P. W. Atkins,
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