Alkali Metals Reactions | Reactivity | Group IA Elements

Here, we learn chemistry of alkali metals(group 1 elements) of s block. Occurrence. reactions, physical properties of group 1 elements are discussed in this tutorial. Usually, group 1 elements of s block are very reactive and exist as compounds. Their only valence is one.

Elements of alkali metals

Atomic Number Element Name Element Symbol
3 Lithium Li
11 Sodium Na
19 Potassium K
37 Rubidium Rb
55 Caesium Cs
87 Francium Fr

In room temperature condition, Hydrogen element exists as H2 gas and rest of others are solid.

Electron Configuration of alkali metals

Those elements have only one electron in their last shell. Commonly, we can show it as 1s2 2s22p6.. ns1

Na - 1s2 2s22p6 3s1
K - 1s2 2s22p6 3s23p6 4s1

Reactions of alkali metals

Alkali metals are very reactive due to existence of only one electron in their last shell. Lot of compounds of these alkali metal's are soluble in water. Most solids of alkali metal compounds take white colour.

Reactivity of alkali metals change down the group

Observe the reaction of lithium, sodium and potassium reaction with water. You can clearly see a difference of reactions. Potassium reacts vigorously with water and lithium slowly reacts.

why alkali metals are reactive

When going down the group, atomic radius of metal increases. To have very good reactivity for metals, ease of eliminating electrons should be high (electrons should be removed easily). When atomic radius increases, elimination of last shell electrons gets more easier. So going down the group, reactivity increases.

  • Reactivity of sodium is higher than lithium.
  • Reactivity of potassium is higher than sodium.

Water and alkali metals reactions

Alkali metals react with water and emit hydrogen and relevant metal hydroxide are given. These metal hydroxides are strong bases and dissolve very well in water.

Reaction of potassium with water is a highly flammable.

2Na + 2H2O = 2NaOH + H2

Solid sodium metal reacts with water to produce aqueous sodium hydroxide and hydrogen gas.

Acids and alkali metals reaction

Alkali metals react with strong acids (HCl , HNO3 , H2SO4) and emit hydrogen gas and produce relevant alkali metal salt.

2Na + 2HCl = 2NaCl + H2

2K + H2SO4 = K2SO4 + H2

Hydrogen and alkali metals reaction

Metal hydrides (H-) are given as products.

2Na + H2 = 2NaH

Those ionic hydrides have H- ions. These ionic hydrides react with compounds which can supply H+ ions. Therefore these hydrides behave as strong reducing agents. So they alkali metal hydrides react with water, alcohols, ammonia and alkyne to eliminate hydrogen gas.

Alkali metal hydrides with proton donors

ionic hydrides strong reducing agents

Reactions of air and alkali metals

Liquid Li reacts (burning) with oxygen gas and make lithium oxide.

Sodium, potassium react with Oxygen and make relevant Oxide of metal.

4Na + O2 = 2Na2O

4K + O2 = 2K2O

When sodium, potassium and other alkali metals at below periods is heated in a hot air stream, alkali metal peroxides are formed.

2Na + O2 = Na2O2

2K + O2 = K2O2

Also potassium, rubidium can make super oxides. Alkali metal superoxides are colourful.

Rb + O2 = RbO2

Reaction of water with alkali metal oxides

Above metal oxides can react with water and make metal hydroxides.

Na2O + H2O = 2NaOH

K2O + H2O = 2KOH

Halogen and alkali metals

group IA elements react with halogen and form alkali metal halides. Sodium chloride, potassium bromide are some examples to alkali metal halides.

2Na + Cl2 = 2NaCl

Nitrogen and alkali metals

Only lithium reacts with nitrogen gas and forms lithium nitride (Li3N) which is a red solid.

6Li + N2 = 2Li3N

Li3N reacts with water and and produce ammonia gas and lithium hydroxide.

Li3N + 3H2O = 3LiOH + NH3

Sulfur and alkali metals

Sodium reacts sulfur form metal sulfide when heat is supplied.

2Na + S = Na2S

Those sulfides can react with dilute acids. And hydrogen sulfide gas is released.

class="reaction-equations"Na2S + HCl = 2NaCl + H2S

Ammonia and group IA metals

Sodium reacts with ammonia to produce hydrogen gas and NaNH2. In this reaction ammonia behave as an acid.

2Na + NH3 = NaNH2 + H2

Reaction with phosphorus and alkali metals

Sodium reacts with phosphorous in the presence of heat and produce sodium phosphide.

3Na + P = Na3P

Reaction of hydrogen sulfide and group IA metals

Sodium reacts with hydrogen sulfide (H2S) to give metal sulfide and H2 gas. Due to release of hydrogen gas, hydrogen sulfide is an acidic gas.

2Na + H2S = Na2S + H2

Alkali metal halides

The alkali metal halides have high melting points and they are colourless crystalline solids.
Ex: NaCl , KBr
These alkali metal halides are prepared by the reaction of appropriate oxide, hydroxide or carbonate with aqueous hydrohalic acid (HF, HCl, HBr, HI)

Alkali metal halides preparing

Stability of alkali metal halides

Fluorides of alkali metals are most stable while iodides of alkali metals are least stable.

Melting and boiling points of alkali metal halides

Melting and boiling points of alkali metal halides decreases with the increase in atomic mass of the halides as:

F- > Cl- > Br- > I-

As an example, melting point of NaCl is higher than NaBr.

For given halide ion, melting and boiling points of LiX is always less than NaX.

Solubility of alkali metal halides

All alkali metal halide compounds are soluble in water exception of LiF. LiF is insoluble in water due to its high lattice energy because of small cation and small anion size. Other halide ions of lithium are soluble in ethanol, acetone, ethyl acetate. LiCl is soluble in pyridine. CsI has also low solubility due to smaller hydration energy of its two ions.

Salts of oxo acids

Alkali metals are electropositive metals. Therefore they form salts with oxo acids.

What are the oxo acids?

Oxo acids are those in which the acidic proton which is on a hydroxyl group with an oxo group attached to the same acid. Carbonic acid (H2CO3), sulfuric acid (H2SO4), phosphoric acid (H3PO4) are some examples.

The alkali metals form salts with all oxo acids. These alkali metal oxo salts are generally soluble in water and thermally stable. But Li2CO3 is not stable to heat and decomposes readily. LiHCO3 does not exist as a solid.

Carbonates and bicarbonates of alkali metals

Carbonates of alkali metals are stable to heat (except lithium carbonate). The stability of those carbonates are increased down the group.

LiHCO3 does not exist as a solid. Li2CO3 is not stable to heat as other alkali earth metal carbonates. Lithium carbonate and alkali earth metal carbonates decompose to metaal oxide and carbon dioxide gas when heat is given.

Bicarbonates of alkali metals (except Llithium bicarbonate) decomposes into the carbonates, carbon dioxide and water.

decomposition of bicarbonates of alkali metals

Colours of super oxides of alkali metals

Alkali metal Alkali metal super oxide Colour
Potassium KO2 Orange
Potassium RbO2 Brown
Potassium KO2 Dark Orange

Why LiCl is soluble in organic solvents?

Li+ has very high polarizing power. Therefore LiCl is covalent in nature. Being covalent in nature, it is soluble in organic solvents.

Why potassium is much reactive than sodium?

Both potassium and sodium are alkali metals and form +1 ions. Sodium is located at third period and potassium is located at fourth period in the periodic table. So radius of potassium is higher than sodium. When radius is higher, eliminating an electron is much easy.

So, potassium can eliminate its last shell electron more easily than sodium atom. So potassium reacts so fast than sodium and reactivity of potassium much higher than sodium.

What are the factors of anomalous behavior of lithium?

  • Small size of atom and ion
  • high ionization enthalpy
  • absence of d- orbitals in its valence shell

What are the precipitates formed by alkali metals?

Many compounds of alkali metals are soluble in water. But few of alkali metal compounds are insoluble in water specially some compounds of lithium. Lithium carbonate, lithium fluoride, lithium carbonate, lithium oxalate are sparingly soluble in water. Solubility of sodium bicarbonate is also less than potassium bicarbonate.

Why sodium should kept under kerosene oil?

Due to higher reactivity, we cannot store sodium outside environment (in air) or water. Sodium can react with oxygen, water.

Kerosene is not reactive liquid. So sodium does not react with kerozene. Therefore we can store sodium metal in kerozene oil.

why are alkali metals not found in nature

Alkali metals are very reactive. SO they readily react with water, oxygen which are common constituents in the environment. So we cannot find alkali metals as pure metals.

Biological importance of sodium and potassium

  • Sodium and potassium are most common cations in biological systems.
  • Though Na+ and K+ ions are quite similar chemically but surprisingly they differ greatly in their biological activities.
  • Their distribution in biological systems is also different. A typical man weighing 70Kg contains about 90g of sodium and 170g of potassium as compared with only 5g of iron and 0.06g of copper.
  • The most salient feature is that K+ ions are present in higher concentrations inside the cells than Na+ ions while their relative concentrations are reverse outside the cells.
  • In other words, K+ ions are concentrated inside the cells while Na+ ions are concentrated outside the cells.
  • Na+ ions are primarily found in blood plasma and in the interstitial fluid which surrounds the cells.
  • On the other hand, K+ ions are most abundant cations within cell fluids. There is very considerable variation in the concentration of Na+ and K+ ions found on the opposite sides of cell membranes. For example, in blood plasma, Na+ ions are present to the extent of 143m .

Written by : Heshan Nipuna
Last Edition : 27/09/2019


Why do the alkali metals form many precipitates?

Alkali metals >do not form many precipitates like alkali earth metals and d block metals.

When you study solubility of inorganic compounds, you may see, a lot of alkali metals are soluble in water.

Take few examples to explain this.

Related Topics to s Block Group 1 Elements - Alkali Metals