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Oxygen Family - Concept

Teacher/Instructor Jacqueline Spivey
Jacqueline Spivey

Ph.D.,U.C.Santa Cruz
Teaching at a top-ranked high school in SF

She teaches general and chemistry at a top-ranked high school in San Francisco. Prior to that, she lead and published a number of research studies and lectured at SF State University.

The Oxygen family, sometimes also known as chalcogens, is group 16 on the periodic table and consisted of oxygen, sulfur, selenium, tellurium, polonium and ununhexium. The elements in this group show patterns in its electron configuration, especially in the outermost shells.

Let's continue to talk the periodic table and the elements contained therein and let's focus on group 6a which is the oxygen family. So let me go ahead and just point that out over here on the periodic table, right here smooshed in-between the nitrogen family and the halogens.

So group six the oxygen family as you can imagine has six valence electrons, recall again that the valence electrons become important when we're talking about electron configurations and thus figuring out how it is that oxygen interacts with other elements and compounds.

So oxygen tends to form covalent compounds with other elements. Again we call that a covalent compound means that there is share sharing of electrons between oxygen and whatever the counterpart is. So the two most common molecular forms of oxygen are O2 and O3 where O2 is the oxygen that people are referring to when they say you're breathing in oxygen and O3 is ozone gas. So the stuff we talk about, that we know is not so great for the environment. So here's a good point too. We can say and remind ourselves that oxygen O2 and ozone O3 are allotropes where they're different forms of the same element and the same state and when I say state I mean as in both of these are in the gaseous state.

So oxygen has a tendency to attract electrons from other elements to, as you can guess, oxidise them. Always reminding yourself what it means for something to be oxidised and what it means for something to be reduced. So oxygen in combination with metal is almost always present as the oxide ion or O2 minus. So this is to say that the oxidation number or oxidation state of oxygen, usually in combination with the metal is O2 minus. If you think about it that makes sense because you know that the metals more or less groups 1a and 2a like to form positively charged ions so they would like to be countered by this two minus from oxygen.

Another member of the oxygen family is sulphur which is right below it and it also exists in several allotropic forms. One of the most common is S8 and sulphur likes to gain electrons to form sulphides that contain the S2 minus ion so that's similar to the behavior of oxygen. And that is the oxygen family.