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Although the Group 12 metals ( [link] ) are formally part of the d-block elements from their position in the Periodic Table, their electronic configuration in both their elemental form ( d 10 s 2 ) and the vast majority of their compounds ( d 10 ) is that of the main group elements. The common oxidation state for all the Group 12 elements is +2, and the chemistry of zinc and cadmium compounds in particular is very similar to the analogous magnesium derivatives.

The IUPAC (International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry) definition of a transition metal (or transition element) states that a transition metal is "an element whose atom has an incomplete d sub-shell, or which can give rise to cations with an incomplete d sub-shell." Thus, Group 12 elements are not transition metals.
Derivation of the names of the Group 12 metals.
Element Symbol Name
Zinc Zn From German zinke , meaning tooth-like, pointed or jagged (metallic zinc crystals have a needle-like appearance), or meaning tin-like because of its relation to German word zinn meaning tin , or from Persian seng meaning stone .
Cadmium Cd From the Latin cadmia , meaning calamine
Mercury Hg From the Latin hydrargyrum , meaning watery or liquid silver



Artifacts with a high zinc content (as much as 90%) have been fond to be over 2500 years old, and possibly older. As such it is clear that several cultures had the knowledge of working with zinc alloys, in particular brass (a zinc/copper alloy). Zinc mines at Zawar, near Udaipur in India, have been active since the late 1 st millennium BC. However, the smelting of metallic zinc appears to have begun around the 12 th century AD.

The isolation of purified metallic zinc was reported concurrently by several people. The extraction of zinc from its oxide (ZnO) was reported as early as 1668, while John Lane is supposed to have smelted zinc in 1726. The first Patent for zinc smelting was granted to English metallurgist William Champion in 1738; however, the credit for discovering pure metallic zinc is often given to Andreas Marggraf ( [link] ) in 1746.

Engraving of German chemist Andreas Sigismund Marggraf (1709 –1782).


Cadmium was discovered in 1817 by Friedrich Stromeyer ( [link] ) as an impurity in calamine (zinc carbonate, ZnCO 3 ). Stromeyer observed that impure samples of calamine changed color when heated but pure calamine did not. Eventually he was able to isolate cadmium metal by roasting and reduction of the sulfide.

German chemist Friedrich Stromeyer (1776 - 1835).


Mercury was known to the ancient Chinese and was found in Egyptian tombs that date from 1500 BC. In China and Tibet, mercury use was thought to prolong life, heal fractures, and maintain generally good health. The ancient Greeks used mercury in ointments; the ancient Egyptians and the Romans used it in cosmetics that sometimes deformed the face.


The Group 12 elements mainly occur in sulfide ores, however, as with their Group 2 analogs, carbonate are known, but not as economically viable. The major zinc containing ore is zinc blende (also known as sphalerite), which is zinc sulfide (ZnS). Other important ores include, wurtzite (ZnS), smithsonite (zinc carbonate, ZnCO 3 ), and hemimorphite (calamine, Zn 2 SiO 4 ). The basic form of zinc carbonate (hydrozincite, Zn 5 (CO 3 ) 2 (OH) 6 ) is also mined where economically viable. The main source of cadmium is as an impurity in zinc blende; however, there are several other ores known, e.g., cadmoselite (cadmium selenide, CdSe) and otavite (CdCO 3 ). Mercury sulfide (cinnabar, HgS) is the major source of mercury, and in fact metallic liquid mercury droplets are often found in the ore. The terrestrial abundance of the Group 12 elements is given in [link] .

Questions & Answers

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At high concentrations (>0.01 M), the relation between absorptivity coefficient and absorbance is no longer linear. This is due to the electrostatic interactions between the quantum dots in close proximity. If the concentration of the solution is high, another effect that is seen is the scattering of light from the large number of quantum dots. This assumption only works at low concentrations of the analyte. Presence of stray light.
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Source:  OpenStax, Chemistry of the main group elements. OpenStax CNX. Aug 20, 2010 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11124/1.25
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