The s-Block of the periodic table constitutes Group1 (alkali metals) and Group 2 (alkaline earth metals).
They are so called because their oxides and hydroxides are alkaline in nature.
The alkali metals are characterised by one s-electron and the alkaline earth metals by two s-electrons in the valence shell of their atoms.
These are highly reactive metals forming monopositive (M+) and dipositve (M2+) ions respectively.
There is a regular trend in the physical and chemical properties of the alkali metal with increasing atomic numbers.
The atomic and ionic sizes increase and the ionization enthalpies decrease systematically down the group. Somewhat similar trends are observed among the properties of the alkaline earth metals.
The first element in each of these groups, lithium in Group 1 and beryllium in Group 2 shows similarities in properties to the second member of the next group.
Such similarities are termed as the ‘diagonal relationship’ in the periodic table. As such these elements are anomalous as far as their group characteristics are concerned.
The alkali metals are silvery white, soft and low melting. They are highly reactive. The compounds of alkali metals are predominantly ionic.
Their oxides and hydroxides are soluble in water forming strong alkalies. Important compounds of sodium includes sodium carbonate, sodium chloride, sodium hydroxide and sodium hydrogencarbonate.
Sodium hydroxide is manufactured by Castner-Kellner process and sodium carbonate by Solvay process. The chemistry of alkaline earth metals is very much like that of the alkali metals.
However, some differences arise because of reduced atomic and ionic sizes and increased cationic charges in case of alkaline earth metals.
Their oxides and hydroxides are less basic than the alkali metal oxides and hydroxides.
Industrially important compounds of calcium include calcium oxide (lime), calcium hydroxide (slaked lime), calcium sulphate (Plaster of Paris), calcium carbonate (limestone) and cement.
Portland cement is an important constructional material. It is manufactured by heating a pulverised mixture of limestone and clay in a rotary kiln.
The clinker thus obtained is mixed with some gypsum (2-3%) to give a fine powder of cement. All these substances find variety of uses in different areas.
Monovalent sodium and potassium ions and divalent magnesium and calcium ions are found in large proportions in biological fluids.
These ions perform important biological functions such as maintenance of ion balance and nerve impulse conduction.