The atomic radius of an element is half of the distance between the centers of two atoms of that element that are just touching each other. Generally, the atomic radius decreases across a period from left to right and increases down a given group. The atoms with the largest atomic radii are located in Group I and at the bottom of groups.
Moving from left to right across a period, electrons are added one at a time to the outer energy shell. Electrons within a shell cannot shield each other from the attraction to protons. Since the number of protons is also increasing, the effective nuclear charge increases across a period. This causes the atomic radius to decrease.
Moving down a group in the periodic table, the number of electrons and filled electron shells increases, but the number of valence electrons remains the same. The outermost electrons in a group are exposed to the same effective nuclear charge, but electrons are found farther from the nucleus as the number of filled energy shells increases. Therefore, the atomic radii increase.
The ionization energy, or ionization potential, is the energy required to completely remove an electron from a gaseous atom or ion. The closer and more tightly bound an electron is to the nucleus, the more difficult it will be to remove, and the higher its ionization energy will be. The first ionization energy is the energy required to remove one electron from the parent atom. The second ionization energy is the energy required to remove a second valence electron from the univalent ion to form the divalent ion, and so on. Successive ionization energies increase. The second ionization energy is always greater than the first ionization energy. Ionization energies increase moving from left to right across a period (decreasing atomic radius). Ionization energy decreases moving down a group (increasing atomic radius). Group I elements have low ionization energies because the loss of an electron forms a stable octet.
Electron affinity reflects the ability of an atom to accept an electron. It is the energy change that occurs when an electron is added to a gaseous atom. Atoms with stronger effective nuclear charge have greater electron affinity. Some generalizations can be made about the electron affinities of certain groups in the periodic table. The Group IIA elements, the alkaline earths, have low electron affinity values. These elements are relatively stable because they have filled s subshells. Group VIIA elements, the halogens, have high electron affinities because the addition of an electron to an atom results in a completely filled shell. Group VIII elements, noble gases, have electron affinities near zero, since each atom possesses a stable octet and will not accept an electron readily. Elements of other groups have low electron affinities.
Electronegativity is a measure of the attraction of an atom for the electrons in a chemical bond. The higher the electronegativity of an atom, the greater its attraction for bonding electrons. Electronegativity is related to ionization energy. Electrons with low ionization energies have low electronegativities because their nuclei do not exert a strong attractive force on electrons. Elements with high ionization energies have high electronegativities due to the strong pull exerted on electrons by the nucleus. In a group, the electronegativity decreases as atomic number increases, as a result of increased distance between the valence electron and nucleus (greater atomic radius). An example of an electropositive (i.e., low electronegativity) element is cesium; an example of a highly electronegative element is fluorine.
Summary of Periodic Table Trends
Moving Left → Right
- Atomic Radius Decreases
- Ionization Energy Increases
- Electronegativity Increases
Moving Top → Bottom
- Atomic Radius Increases
- Ionization Energy Decreases
- Electronegativity Decreases