Do you love firework displays? Then you actually love some of the alkaline earth metals. Several of them turn different brilliant colors when they burn and are components in firework displays. Most of the alkaline earth metals are found in the atmosphere naturally and happen to be in great abundance.
What Is the Definition of Alkaline Earth Metals?
Alkaline earth metals are on the periodic table of elements in group IIA, the second column from the left. There are only six metals in this category including beryllium (Be), magnesium (Mg), calcium (Ca), strontium (Sr), barium (Ba) and radium (Ra). Radium is the only alkaline earth metal that is radioactive and contains no stable isotopes. All of the alkaline earth metals, with the exception of magnesium and strontium, have at least one radioisotope that occurs naturally. When alkaline earth metals are mixed in solutions, they more than likely form a solution with a pH level greater than 7, making them alkaline.
What Are the Properties of Alkaline Earth Metals?
As with all of the families of elements, the alkaline earth metals share traits with each other too. They are not as reactive as the alkali metals and they make bonds very easily. Each of the metals has two electrons in their outer shell, and they are ready to give up those electrons when making ionic or covalent bonds. They give up the electrons in order to have a full outer shell. The alkaline earth metals are relatively soft, quite shiny and silver or white in color.
Alkaline earth metals react with water and acids to produce hydrogen gas, they also act vigorously with oxygen. Flame tests can be helpful in the identification of the compounds in alkaline earth metals. Calcium burns orangish red, strontium burns crimson and barium burns green. These metals are often used for fireworks.
What Are the Uses for Alkaline Earth Metals?
Beryllium ranks at number 50 for the abundance among chemical elements. It is most often found in brilliant gems and gemstones such as beryl, aquamarine and emeralds. It is used instead of glass in X-ray tubes and in combination with copper, it is used to keep tools from emitting sparks when they strike other objects.
Magnesium is the sixth most common element. It can be found in magnesite, carnallite and asbestos. All of the oceans also have high concentrations of magnesium. Magnesium is a component in chlorophyll, the green pigment in plants that captures the energy from the sun and stores it in plant sugars for photosynthesis. When mixed with aluminum or zinc, this element is used in manufacturing airplanes and car parts.
Calcium is number three in the most common metals on Earth. It occurs in marble, chalk and limestone. Calcium compounds are also found in water in the sea. It is a nutrient for living organisms to promote proper development of bones and teeth. It also helps your blood to clot and maintains a normal heartbeat and blood pressure.
Radium is radioactive in nature, and when combined with uranium, it creates radioactive decay, which is used to tell the age of rocks.
Strontium is used mainly in fireworks due to its bright colors. A solution of strontium hydroxide is used in the refining process of beet sugar.
Barium is most often used by patients with gastrointestinal issue in which they drink a chalky solution made from barium so that when X-rays are taken, it will appear on the screen.
About the Author
Mary Lougee has been writing about chemistry, biology, algebra, geometry, trigonometry and calculus for more than 12 years. She gained the knowledge in these fields by taking accelerated classes throughout college while gaining her degree.