Alkaline Earth Metals: Elements in Group 2 of the Periodic Table
The Alkaline Earth Metals
The alkaline earth metals make up Group 2 of the periodic table. Like most metals, these metals are shiny, malleable, and ductile. They are also similar to alkali metals in that they combine so readily with other elements that they are not found as free elements in nature.
Each atom of an alkaline earth metal has two electrons in its outer energy level. These electrons are given up when an alkaline earth metal combines with a nonmetal. As a result, the alkaline earth metal becomes a positively charged ion in a compound such as calcium fluoride, CaF2.
Fireworks and Other Uses
Magnesium metal is one of the metals used to produce the brilliant white color in fireworks like the ones in the image below. Compounds of strontium produce the bright red flashes. Magnesium’s lightness and strength account for its use in cars, planes, and spacecraft.
We also use magnesium in compounds to make such things as household ladders and baseball and softball bats. Most life on Earth depends upon chlorophyll, a magnesium compound that enables plants to make food. We use the calcium compound, calcium carbonate to make marble statues and some countertops.
The Alkaline Earth Metals and Your Body
Calcium is seldom used as a free metal, but its compounds are needed for life. You may take a vitamin with calcium. Calcium phosphate in your bones helps make them strong.
The barium compound BaSO4 is used to diagnose some digestive disorders because it absorbs X-ray radiation well. First, the patient swallows a barium compound. Next, a radiologic technologist takes an X ray while the barium compound is going through the digestive tract. A doctor can then see where the barium is in the body. In this way, doctors can diagnose internal abnormalities in the body.
Radium, the last element in Group 2, is radioactive and you can find it in association with uranium. Interestingly, it was once used to treat cancers. However, today, other radioactive elements that are more readily available are replacing radium in cancer therapy.
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