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What are the Alkaline Earth Metals?

By J.L. Drede
Updated: May 21, 2024

The alkaline earth metals are metallic elements that are found in the second vertical row of the periodic table. The alkaline earth metals get their name because of their reactive properties. When these metals are mixed in solutions, they create a pH that is higher than 7, a level that is defined as alkaline. There are six elements that make up the earth alkaline metals: beryllium (Be), magnesium (Mg), calcium (Ca), strontium (Sr), barium (Ba), and radium (Ra).

Alkaline earth metals are found in the crust of the Earth, usually in rock structures. The most commonly found elements in the group are magnesium and calcium. Magnesium is found in carnellite, magnesite, and dolomite and is the eighth most abundant element in the Earth's crust. Calcium is the fifth most abundant element in the crust and is often found in chalk, limestone, and anhydrite.

There are certain properties of alkaline earth metals that all the elements in the group share. All are very hard and dense, and all have higher melting points than most other elements. Each of these properties can be attributed to the fact that their atoms have two valence electrons, which creates a strong metallic bond.

Another trait that all of the alkaline earth metals share is a silver luster on their surfaces and their ability to serve as a strong conductor of electricity. All of the elements are also very reactive, so much so that they are rarely found in nature except when in compounds with other materials. Each of the alkaline earth metals also has its own special traits that have made it useful in different ways.

Beryllium is a very lightweight metal that is often used for windows in x-ray machines and in nuclear environments. It is also frequently combined with other metals, such as copper, to create very strong alloys that do not spark or corrode easily.

Magnesium is frequently used as a replacement for aluminum thanks to its heavy abundance. It is a very soft metal and can be cast in different forms very easily. Magnesium also has uses in medicine; both milk of magnesia and Epsom salts are part magnesium.

Calcium has many different purposes. Glass, cement, and mortar are all created using calcium. Its properties as an anti-bacterial agent have also been put to use in farms or in buildings that keep poultry.

Although less common than other metals in the alkaline earth family, strontium and barium are used in the production of vacuum tubes. Radium, the only radioactive element in the group, is used in cancer treatment.

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