The alkaline earth metals are a series of elements comprising Group 2 (IUPAC style) (Group IIA) of the periodic table: beryllium (Be), magnesium (Mg), calcium (Ca), strontium (Sr), barium (Ba) and radium (Ra). This specific group in the periodic table owes its name to their oxides that simply give basic alkaline solutions. These oxides melt at such high temperature that they remain solids (“earths”) in fires. The alkaline earth metals provide a good example of group trends in properties in the periodic table, with well-characterized homologous behavior down the group. With the exception of Be and Mg, the metals have a distinguishable flame color, orange for Ca, bright red for Sr, green for Ba and crimson red for Ra.
Like other groups, the members of this family show patterns in its electron configuration, especially the outermost shells resulting in trends in chemical behavior:
The alkaline earth metals are silver colored, soft metals, which react readily with halogens to form ionic salts, and with water, though not as rapidly as the alkali metals, to form strong alkaline (basic) hydroxides. For example, where sodium and potassium react with water at room temperature, magnesium reacts only with steam and calcium with hot water:
Beryllium is an exception: It does not react with water or steam, and its halides are covalent.
All the alkaline earth metals have two electrons in their valence shell, so the energetically preferred state of achieving a filled electron shell is to lose two electrons to form doubly charged positive ions.
The alkaline earth metals are named after their oxides, the alkaline earths, whose old-fashioned names were beryllia, magnesia, lime, strontia and baryta. These oxides are basic (alkaline) when combined with water. "Earth" is an old term applied by early chemists to nonmetallic substances that are insoluble in water and resistant to heating—properties shared by these oxides. The realization that these earths were not elements but compounds is attributed to the chemist Antoine Lavoisier. In his Traité Élémentaire de Chimie (Elements of Chemistry) of 1789 he called them salt-forming earth elements. Later, he suggested that the alkaline earths might be metal oxides, but admitted that this was mere conjecture. In 1808, acting on Lavoisier's idea, Humphry Davy became the first to obtain samples of the metals by electrolysis of their molten earths.
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