Is Zinc a Transition Metal? (+ 3 More Things to Know)

No, zinc is not considered a transition metal. According to the IUPAC definition, transition metals have partially filled d-orbitals either in their elemental state or in their most common oxidation state. 1 Zinc has completely filled d-orbitals in its most common oxidation state (Zn2+) and so it is not considered as a transition metal.

Well, this was just a simple answer. But there are few more things to know about this topic which will make your concept super clear.

So let’s dive right into it.

Why is zinc not a transition metal?

Zinc is not considered a transition metal because it does not meet the criteria of having partially filled d-orbitals in its most stable oxidation state (i.e Zn2+)

Transition metals are defined as elements that have partially filled d-orbitals, which allow them to exhibit certain characteristic properties. However, zinc’s electron configuration, [Ar] 3d10 4s2, indicates a completely filled d-orbital in its most common oxidation state of +2. 2 This lack of partially filled d-orbitals sets zinc apart from the traditional transition metals.

Transition metals are characterized by the presence of partially filled d-orbitals in their electron configurations. These partially filled orbitals contribute to their unique properties such as variable oxidation states, the ability to form complex ions, and catalytic activity. 

However, in the case of zinc, its electron configuration of [Ar] 3d10 4s2 shows a completely filled d-orbital. In its most stable oxidation state, which is +2, zinc loses the two 4s electrons, resulting in a full d-orbital.

This means that zinc lacks the crucial characteristic of partially filled d-orbitals that defines transition metals. Therefore, according to this criterion, zinc is not classified as a transition metal. 3

What are the characteristics of transition metals? And how lead differs from transition metals?

Zinc possesses several properties that distinguish it from transition metals:

  • Limited oxidation states: Unlike most transition metals, which exhibit a range of oxidation states, zinc predominantly displays a single stable oxidation state of +2. This stands in contrast to the variable oxidation states commonly observed in other transition metals.
  • Less tendency for complex formation: While transition metals are known for their ability to form complex ions and compounds with ligands, zinc has a lower propensity for complex formation. 4 It does not readily form complex ions or compounds with ligands as readily as other transition metals.
  • Unique electronic configuration: Zinc has a full d-subshell (3d10) in its ground state, which differs from other transition metals that typically have partially filled d-orbitals. 5 This electronic configuration contributes to its distinct chemical behavior.
  • Chemistry resembling alkaline earth metals: In terms of its reactivity and properties, zinc exhibits similarities to the alkaline earth metals rather than conforming strictly to the behavior of other transition metals. 6 This is reflected in its tendency to form ionic compounds and exhibit alkaline earth metal-like characteristics.

Overall, the limited oxidation states, reduced propensity for complex formation, unique electronic configuration, and similarities to alkaline earth metals distinguish zinc from other transition metals.

Further reading

Is Copper a Transition Metal?
Is Oxygen a Halogen?
Why is Chlorine a Halogen?
Why is Iodine a Halogen?
Why are Halogens So Reactive? 

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  1. Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC), T. I. (n.d.). IUPAC – transition element (T06456). IUPAC – Transition Element (T06456).
  2. P. (n.d.). Zinc | Zn (Element) – PubChem. Zinc | Zn (Element) – PubChem.
  3. Introduction to Transition Metals II. (2013, October 3). Chemistry LibreTexts.
  4. Coordination Complexes and Ligands. (n.d.). Coordination Complexes and Ligands.
  5. Zinc – Element information, properties and uses | Periodic Table. (n.d.). Zinc – Element Information, Properties and Uses | Periodic Table.
  6. Zinc – Wikipedia. (2014, April 25). Zinc – Wikipedia.

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