Summary
The alkaline earth metals are six chemical elements in group 2 of the periodic table. They are beryllium (Be), magnesium (Mg), calcium (Ca), strontium (Sr), barium (Ba), and radium (Ra). The elements have very similar properties: they are all shiny, silvery-white, somewhat reactive metals at standard temperature and pressure. Together with helium, these elements have in common an outer s orbital which is full— that is, this orbital contains its full complement of two electrons, which the alkaline earth metals readily lose to form cations with charge +2, and an oxidation state of +2. Helium is grouped with the noble gases and not with the alkaline earth metals, but it is theorised to have some similarities to beryllium when forced into bonding and has sometimes been suggested to belong to group 2. All the discovered alkaline earth metals occur in nature, although radium occurs only through the decay chain of uranium and thorium and not as a primordial element. There have been experiments, all unsuccessful, to try to synthesize element 120, the next potential member of the group. As with other groups, the members of this family show patterns in their electronic configuration, especially the outermost shells, resulting in trends in chemical behavior: Most of the chemistry has been observed only for the first five members of the group. The chemistry of radium is not well-established due to its radioactivity; thus, the presentation of its properties here is limited. The alkaline earth metals are all silver-colored and soft, and have relatively low densities, melting points, and boiling points. In chemical terms, all of the alkaline earth metals react with the halogens to form the alkaline earth metal halides, all of which are ionic crystalline compounds (except for beryllium chloride, beryllium bromide and beryllium iodide, which are covalent). All the alkaline earth metals except beryllium also react with water to form strongly alkaline hydroxides and, thus, should be handled with great care.
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