p-Block of the periodic table is unique in terms of having all types of elements – metals, non-metals and metalloids.
There are six groups of p-block elements in the periodic table numbering from 13 to 18. Their valence shell electronic configuration is ns2np1–6 (except for He).
Differences in the inner core of their electronic configuration greatly influence their physical and chemical properties.
As a consequence of this, a lot of variation in properties among these elements is observed. In addition to the group oxidation state, these elements show other oxidation states differing from the total number of valence electrons by unit of two.
While the group oxidation state is the most stable for the lighter elements of the group, lower oxidation states become progressively more stable for the heavier elements.
The combined effect of size and availability of d orbitals considerably influences the ability of these elements to form -bonds
While the lighter elements form p–p bonds, the heavier ones form d–p or d–d bonds. Absence of d orbital in second period elements limits their maximum covalence to 4 while heavier ones can exceed this limit.
Boron is a typical non-metal and the other members are metals. The availability of 3 valence electrons (2s22p1) for covalent bond formation using four orbitals (2s, 2px, 2py and 2pz) leads to the so called electron deficiency in boron compounds.
This deficiency makes them good electron acceptor and thus boron compounds behave as Lewis acids.
Boron forms covalent molecular compounds with dihydrogen as boranes, the simplest of which is diborane, B2H6.
Diborane contains two bridging hydrogen atoms between two boron atoms; these bridge bonds are considered to be three-centre two-electron bonds.
The important compounds of boron with dioxygen are boric acid and borax. Boric acid, B(OH)3 is a weak monobasic acid; it acts as a Lewis acid by accepting electrons from hydroxyl ion.
Borax is a white crystalline solid of formula Na2[B4O5(OH)4]·8H2O. The borax bead test gives characteristic colours of transition metals.
Aluminium exhibits +3 oxidation state. With heavier elements +1 oxidation state gets progressively stabilised on going down the group.
This is a consequence of the so called inert pair effect. Carbon is a typical non-metal forming covalent bonds employing all its four valence electrons (2s22p2).
It shows the property of catenation, the ability to form chains or rings, not only with C–C single bonds but also with multiple bonds (C=C or C≡C). The tendency to catenation decreases as C>>Si>Ge ~ Sn > Pb.
Carbon provides one of the best examples of allotropy. Three important allotropes of carbon are diamond, graphite and fullerenes.
The members of the carbon family mainly exhibit +4 and +2 oxidation states; compouds in +4 oxidation states are generally covalent in nature.
The tendency to show +2 oxidation state increases among heavier elements. Lead in +2 state is stable whereas in +4 oxidation state it is a strong oxidising agent.
Carbon also exhibits negative oxidation states. It forms two important oxides: CO and CO2. Carbon monoxide is neutral whereas CO2 is acidic in nature.
Carbon monoxide having lone pair of electrons on C forms metal carbonyls. It is deadly poisonous due to higher stability of its haemoglobin complex as compared to that of oxyhaemoglobin complex.
Carbon dioxide as such is not toxic. However, increased content of CO2 in atmosphere due to combustion of fossil fuels and decomposition of limestone is feared to cause increase in ‘green house effect’.
This, in turn, raises the temperature of the atmosphere and causes serious complications. Silica, silicates and silicones are important class of compounds and find applications in industry and technology.