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Essential Elements

32 33 thE tranSItIon mEtalS gold, silver, copper and iron in the dblock The next zone of the periodic table we encounter on our travels is a series of metals starting at scandium where the first of ten electrons begins filling the set of 3d orbitals inside the 4s. Most members of this series heartily lose one or more electrons to form a bewildering array of brightly coloured compounds. The transition metals are hard and strong, their similar structures allowing them to be mixed into useful alloys. Copper and zinc combine into brass, and mercury, the only metal liquid at room temperature, forms alloys called amalgams. With a dash of carbon, iron creates steel, becoming even harder with an added splash of vanadium, molybdenum or chromium. Irons attraction is due to the unbalanced magnetic moments of unpaired electrons in its outer dorbital. Several neighbours also exhibit varying degrees of paramagnetism. Titanium has a reputation for both strength and corrosive resistance, and is thus ideal for flying machines and rocket ships. The enduring popularity of shiny gold, silver and copper is in part due to their stability. Excellent conductors of electrons and heat, they have many applications in electronics and optics, also looking pretty in rings, crowns, coins and other baubles. d block
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