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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

Introduction about quantum dots in nanotechnology
Praveena Reply
what does nano mean?
Anassong Reply
nano basically means 10^(-9). nanometer is a unit to measure length.
do you think it's worthwhile in the long term to study the effects and possibilities of nanotechnology on viral treatment?
Damian Reply
absolutely yes
how to know photocatalytic properties of tio2 nanoparticles...what to do now
Akash Reply
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for teaching engĺish at school how nano technology help us
Do somebody tell me a best nano engineering book for beginners?
s. Reply
there is no specific books for beginners but there is book called principle of nanotechnology
what is fullerene does it is used to make bukky balls
Devang Reply
are you nano engineer ?
fullerene is a bucky ball aka Carbon 60 molecule. It was name by the architect Fuller. He design the geodesic dome. it resembles a soccer ball.
what is the actual application of fullerenes nowadays?
That is a great question Damian. best way to answer that question is to Google it. there are hundreds of applications for buck minister fullerenes, from medical to aerospace. you can also find plenty of research papers that will give you great detail on the potential applications of fullerenes.
what is the Synthesis, properties,and applications of carbon nano chemistry
Abhijith Reply
Mostly, they use nano carbon for electronics and for materials to be strengthened.
is Bucky paper clear?
carbon nanotubes has various application in fuel cells membrane, current research on cancer drug,and in electronics MEMS and NEMS etc
so some one know about replacing silicon atom with phosphorous in semiconductors device?
s. Reply
Yeah, it is a pain to say the least. You basically have to heat the substarte up to around 1000 degrees celcius then pass phosphene gas over top of it, which is explosive and toxic by the way, under very low pressure.
Do you know which machine is used to that process?
how to fabricate graphene ink ?
for screen printed electrodes ?
What is lattice structure?
s. Reply
of graphene you mean?
or in general
in general
Graphene has a hexagonal structure
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what is biological synthesis of nanoparticles
Sanket Reply
what's the easiest and fastest way to the synthesize AgNP?
Damian Reply
types of nano material
abeetha Reply
I start with an easy one. carbon nanotubes woven into a long filament like a string
many many of nanotubes
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I'm interested in nanotube
what is nanomaterials​ and their applications of sensors.
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what is nano technology
Sravani Reply
what is system testing?
how did you get the value of 2000N.What calculations are needed to arrive at it
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waht is hydrating power of lithium carbonates
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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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