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Periodic Classification of Elements

Doberiener's Triads And Newlands Law Of Octaves

There are 118 elements that are known at present. Some elements have similar properties whereas some others have completely contrasting properties.

You must have observed that in a grocery store, things are kept in an orderly manner. For example, soaps are stacked at one place while biscuits are kept separately at another place. Scientists too tried to arrange elements based on their properties. However, as more and more elements were discovered, it became increasingly difficult to arrange these elements.

Hence, scientists began to look for some pattern in the properties of these elements. Let us study in this part how famous scientists such as Johann Wolfgang Dobereiner and John Newlands arranged the elements discovered at that time.

In 1817, Johann Wolfgang Dobereiner, a German chemist, classified elements into groups based on their properties. He kept all elements having similar properties in one group. Most of his groups had three elements each. Thus, he called these groups as triads. He was the first person to illustrate the relationship between the atomic masses of elements and their properties.

Mass number is the sum of the number of protons and neutrons in an element.

He also gave a law known as the Law of Triads. It states that when three elements in a triad are listed in the increasing order of their atomic masses, the atomic mass of the middle element will roughly be the average of the atomic masses of the other two elements. This is demonstrated in the following animation.

The above example illustrates Dobereiner’s Law of Triads.

Similarly, this law can also be proved for the triads of other elements as shown below:

Other metals

Non-metals

Element

Atomic mass

Element

Atomic mass

Calcium

40

Chlorine

35.5

Strontium

88

Bromine

80

Barium

137

Iodine

127

Average mass of calcium and barium =

= 88.5

Average mass of chlorine and iodine =

= 81.2

In both cases, the average atomic mass of the middle element is approximately equal to the average atomic mass of the other two elements.

Hence, Dobereiner was able to identify only three triads from the elements known at that time as shown in table 1.

Li

Ca

Cl

Na

Sr

Br

K

Ba

I

Table 1: Dobereiner’s triads

Limitations of Dobereiner’s classification of elements:

  • All known elements could not be classified into groups of triads on the basis of their properties.

  • Not all groups obeyed the Law of Triads. For example, nitrogen family does not obey the Law of Triads.

...

Nitrogen family

Element

Atomic mass

Nitrogen

14

Phosphorus

31

Arsenic

74.9

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