Why do some transition metals have more than one stable ion?

Some transition metals have more than one stable ion due to their unique electron configurations and oxidation states.

Transition metals are elements found in groups 3-12 of the periodic table. They are unique in that they have the ability to form more than one stable ion. This is due to the electron configuration of these elements, specifically the presence of d-orbitals. The d-orbitals are able to accommodate up to ten electrons, which can be lost or gained in various combinations, leading to different oxidation states and hence different ions.

The oxidation state of an atom is a measure of the degree of oxidation of an atom. It is defined as the charge an atom would carry if all bonds were 100% ionic. Transition metals often have several oxidation states because they have small energy differences between the 3d and 4s orbitals. This means that an electron can be removed from either the 4s or 3d orbital, resulting in different oxidation states.

For example, iron (Fe) can exist in either the +2 or +3 oxidation state. This is because it has two 4s electrons and six 3d electrons. If it loses the two 4s electrons, it forms a +2 ion (Fe2+). If it loses these two plus one of the 3d electrons, it forms a +3 ion (Fe3+).

Similarly, copper (Cu) can exist in either the +1 or +2 oxidation state. This is because it has one 4s electron and ten 3d electrons. If it loses the 4s electron, it forms a +1 ion (Cu+). If it loses this one plus one of the 3d electrons, it forms a +2 ion (Cu2+).

IB Chemistry Tutor Summary: Transition metals, found in groups 3-12 of the periodic table, can form various stable ions because they possess d-orbitals that accommodate up to ten electrons. This flexibility in losing or gaining electrons in different combinations allows them to exhibit multiple oxidation states. For instance, iron can form +2 or +3 ions, and copper can form +1 or +2 ions.

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