Group 13 Elements

What are Group 13 Elements?

In the periodic table, the group 13 elements are the first group in the p-block. All the elements of group 13 are termed as the boron family. The periodic table is segregated into s, p, d, and f-blocks. This difference is made based on the valence electron, if the valence electron falls on the p subshell, it comes in p-block and so on.

The members of Group 13 elements are:

  • Boron

  • Aluminum

  • Gallium

  • Indium

  • Thallium


Oxidation States and Inert Pair Effect

The normal oxidation state results by the group 13 elements in the group are +3, and +1. As we go down the group of Boron family, the tendency to form +1 ion increases. This is due to the inert pair effect.

To elucidate, consider B3+ and B+. It is shown experimentally that B3+ is more stable than B+. Now consider, Tl3+ and Tl+. It was seen that Tl+ is more stable than Tl3+.

This can be explained using the inert pair effect. It is the non-participation of the s-orbital during chemical bonding due to the poor shielding of the intervening electrons.

Simply put, for elements like Indium and Thallium, d and f orbitals are filled with electrons. Since d and f orbitals’ shielding ability is very poor, the nuclear charge that seeps through attracts the s orbital closer to the nucleus. This makes the s orbital reluctant to bond, thereby only the p electrons are involved in bonding.


Covalent Character of Group 13 Elements

There are three reasons for the formation of covalent compounds by group 13 elements.

  • Fagan’s rule may be applied. Smaller the cation more is the covalence.

  • They have very high ionization enthalpies ( IE1+IE2+IE3) which makes the formation of ionic compounds hard.

  • They have relatively higher electronegativities and hence the formation of compounds would not result in a higher electronegativity difference.


Reason Behind the Anomalous Behaviour of Boron

Boron behaves differently from the rest of the elements present in group 13 because of the following reasons.

  • It has a very small size

  • It has very high ionization enthalpy

  • It has high electronegativity owing to its small size

  • The absence of d-orbital in the valence shell


Chemical Properties of Group 13 Elements

Reactivity of Group 13 towards Oxygen

All of the elements of group 13 have a reaction at high temperature forming trioxides, M2O3.

4M(s) + O2 (g) → 2M2O3(s)

Tl, besides forming Tl2O3, also forms Tl2O.

Boron does not react towards oxygen in its crystalline form. Finely divided amorphous boron reacts with oxygen on heating to form B2O3.

Scientifically, Aluminium should react with air, but it is stable. This is because Al2O3 forms as a protective layer on the metal’s surface, thereby making it inert.

Reactivity of Group 13 towards Acids and Alkalis

Boron does not react with non-oxidizing acids like HCl, but at higher temperatures, it reacts with strong oxidizing acids like a mixture of hot concentrated H2SO4 and HNO3 to give boric acid.

B(s) + 3HNO3 (aq) → H3BO3 (aq) + 3NO2 (g)

Boron resists the action of alkalis (NaOH and KOH) up to 773 K, above which they form borates.

2B(s) + 6KOH(s) → 2K3BO3(s) + 3H2(g)

All the other elements of group 13 react both with non-oxidizing and oxidizing acids liberating hydrogen gas.

Aluminum and Gallium can also react with alkalis liberating hydrogen gas.

2Al(s) + 2NaOH (aq) + 6H2O (l) → 2Na [Al (OH) 4] (aq) + H2 (g)

Reactivity of Group 13 towards Halogens

They react with halogens at high temperatures to form trihalides MX3.

2M(s) + 3X2 (g) → 2MX3 (where X=F,Cl,Br,I)

Tl however, only forms TlF3 and TlCl3.

Reactivity of Group 13 towards Water and Metals

Reactivity towards Water:

Boron does not react with water or steam; however, at very high temperatures, it reacts with steam.

2B + 3H2O → B2O3 + 3H2

If the oxide layer is absent, Aluminium decomposes cold water to yield hydrogen gas. Gallium and Indium do not react with water unless oxygen gas is present. Thallium forms TlOH in moist air.

4Tl + 2H2O + O2 → 4TlOH

Reactivity towards Metals:

Only boron combines with metals to form borides. The rest of the elements of group 13 are reluctant to combine with metals. This portrays the non-metallic character of Boron.

3Mg + 2B → Mg3B2


Complex Forming Tendency 

Group 13 elements have more tendency to form complexes than s-block elements due to their smaller size and more polarising power.

Boron can form many complexes like [BF4]. It has an sp3 hybridized orbitals and tetrahedral geometry. Other elements also include complex compounds like Li[AlH4], [GaCl6]3-.


Physical Properties of Group 13 Elements

Atomic and Ionic Radii

The atomic radii of group 13 elements are lesser than their corresponding group 2 elements. This is because the effective nuclear charge increases which makes the size of the atom smaller.

The atomic and ionic radii down the group increase due to the addition of a new shell. However, there is a deviation on moving from Aluminium (143 pm) to Gallium (135 pm). This arises due to the poor shielding of the intervening d-orbitals in Gallium, making the size smaller than Aluminium.

Boron< Aluminium > Gallium < Indium< Thallium

Ionization Energy

Down the group, the values of Ionization Enthalpy do not decrease smoothly. From Boron to Aluminium, the Ionization Enthalpy increase as expected. But from Aluminium to Gallium, the Ionization Enthalpy increase slightly. The first Ionization Enthalpy of Thallium is greater than Aluminium.

Reason: This trend is observed due to the poor shielding of d and f orbitals. Gallium is smaller than Aluminium due to poor d shielding, therefore, IE1 of Aluminium < IE1 of Gallium. Similarly, Thallium has intervening f orbitals which are very poor at shielding, thereby increasing the IE1 of Thallium.

Electronegativity

The electronegativity first decreases from B to Al, then it increases slightly from Aluminium to Tl. This can be attributed to the poor shielding of the intervening d and f orbitals.

Electropositivity

The trend expected should be the exact opposite of electronegativity. The metallic character first increases from B to Al, then it decreases slightly from Aluminium to Tl.

This is because the group 13 has a very high Ionization Enthalpy. Also, larger the size of the ion, lesser is its Ionization Enthalpy. Therefore Aluminium is the most metallic. This can further be explained using the standard reduction potentials.

This shows that Aluminium is the most metallic and that Tl3+ isn’t that stable, as the potential is positive, making Gibb’s free energy positive. (∆G = -nFE)

Density

The elements of group 13 have higher densities than group 2 elements. This is because they have smaller sizes, and hence small volumes. The density increases from B to Tl.


Acid-Base Characteristics

H3BO3 is a monobasic acid in water. This is because water acts as a Lewis base and H3BO3 acts as a Lewis acid. 

Compounds of Group 13 Elements

Oxides

B2O3 is formed by heating amorphous boron in air,

4B + 3O2 → 2B2O3

Boron suboxide (BO)2 is formed by heating B2O3 with boron at 1050°C.

B + B2O3 → (BO)2

The other elements’ oxides can be prepared by the thermal decomposition of their nitrates or their hydroxides.

2Al (OH)3 → Al2O3 + 3H2O

Halides

Boron forms trihalides with Fluorine, Chlorine, and Iodine. Since all the elements of group 13 possess only 6 electrons in their valance shell, they act as Lewis acids.

BBr3>BCl3>BF3

Reason: This is not by the normal trend observed, surely, we can claim that BF3 to be the most acidic as F is the most electronegative.

The lone pair on F is given to the empty p-orbital of B, making it less electropositive reducing the acidic character.

The overlap of B and F is maximum as their sizes are compatible. Boron cannot form effective back bonding with Cl or Br as they are bigger than B. The halides of Al, Gallium, In and Tl are largely covalent.

Borates

Borates are compounds of group 13 containing discrete [BO3]3- units. Each unit is sp2 hybridized. They are classified according to the way the individual units are linked.

  • Orthoborates: They contain discrete BO33- units. For example, Mg3(BO3)2.

  • Sheet borate: The two-dimensional network of borates where all the three oxygen atoms are shared.

Boron Hydrides

The binary compounds formed by boron and hydrogen are called boranes. The simplest borane known is B2H6. They are classified into three major types,

  • Closo-boranes ( BnH2n+2)

  • Nido-boranes (BnH2n+4)

  • Arachno-boranes (BnH2n+6)

Diborane (B2H6)

It can be prepared by reacting BCl3 with hydrogen gas over a Cu-Al catalyst at 450°C.

2BCl3 + 6H2 → B2H6 + 6HCl

Diborane on heating alone or in the presence of hydrogen, higher boranes are obtained.

Structure of Diborane

The total number of valence electrons present in diborane = 3 × 2 + 1 × 6 = 12 electrons.

The number of valence electrons in ethane (C2H6) = 4 × 2 + 1 × 6 = 14 electrons.

Therefore, we can see that diborane is electron-deficient and hence should be unstable.

From the data obtained from electron diffraction studies, we were able to elucidate the structure of diborane.

It has two types of hydrogen atoms, terminal and bridged. The four-terminal B-H bonds have the same bond length, and they are standard covalent bonds.

The two bridged hydrogen atoms, however, the H-B-H bond are much longer than the terminal B-H bond. The H-B-H bond is unusual as the two bridges involve only one electron from each hydrogen atom giving four electrons. That is, each H-B-H bond has two electrons delocalized over three centres, giving rise to a three-centred two-electron bond.

Borazine

Boron-Nitrogen species that carry only one substituent on each atom, and exist as trimers are called Borazine (B3N3H6).

It is prepared by heating diborane and ammonia in 1:2 molar ratio at -120°C, which gives ionic species which on heating gives borazine.

B2H6 + 2NH3 → [H2B(NH3)2]+[BH4] → B3N3H6 + 6H2

Similarities of Borazine with Benzene

  1. Borazine is isoelectric with benzene. i.e. the total number of electrons in benzene = 6 × 6 + 1 × 6 = 42 electrons and the total number of electrons in borazine = 3 × 5 + 3 × 7 + 6 × 1 = 42 electrons.

  2. Borazine is isosteric with benzene. That is, the total number of atoms are same.

  3. Both the N and B are sp2 hybridized.

Properties of Borazine

It readily undergoes addition reaction. This is because the B-N bond is polar unlike the covalent C-C bond, and hence addition reactions happen easily.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Q1. What are Group 13 Elements?

Ans - In the periodic table, the group 13 elements are the first group in the p-block. All the elements of group 13 are termed as the boron family. The periodic table is segregated into s, p, d and f-blocks. This difference is made based on the valence electron, if the valence electron falls on the p subshell, it comes in p-block and so on.

The members of Group 13 elements are:

  • Boron

  • Aluminium

  • Gallium

  • Indium

  • Thallium

Q2. Define Electronegativity

Ans - The electronegativity first decreases from B to Al, then it increases slightly from Aluminium to Tl. This can be attributed to the poor shielding of the intervening d and f orbitals.