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This is quite an easy topic and a good chance to get some easy marks. Its mostly just learning trends and
equations; nothing difficult or new chemistry wise.


the ability of an atom in a covalent bond to attract electrons towards itself

Electronegativity increases across a period (remember fluorine is the most electronegative element). And
it decreases down a group.

The reasons why are the same arguments as for ionisation energies at AS. Across a period the nuclear
charge increases but there is no increase in shielding, therefore there is a stronger attraction between
electrons and nucleus.

Down a group there is an increase in size of the atom due to extra shells being added. Therefore the
outer electrons are further from the nucleus and experience less attraction. There is also increased
shielding which contributes to this too.

Technically, despite electronegativity being associated with covalent bonds, you could say that the
biggest differences in electronegativity between two elements forms ionic compounds. They have asked
this in exam questions before.


The elements in period 3 react with oxygen to form metal oxides. For example:

2Na + O2 Na2O

They can be split into ionic or covalent oxides and acidic and basic oxides.

Ionic Oxides

Melting Points

Na2O, MgO (white flame seen when Mg burns in O2) and Al2O3 are all ionic compounds with high melting
points. You should know from AS why ionic compounds have high melting points.

Al3+ has the highest melting point, then Mg2+ and finally Na+. Remember size and charge when predicting
melting points. Al3+ is the smallest out the three and has the highest charge. This gives the Al3+ ion a
stronger attraction towards the O2- than Mg2+ or Na+, and therefore stronger bonds are formed.

Reaction with water

They all contain the O2- ion that reacts with H2O to produce the OH- ion e.g.

Na2O + H2O 2NaOH

You can write the product out as Na+ + OH- to show that the solution is basic or miss out the Na all
together as it is a spectator ion. So Na2O and MgO are classed as basic oxides, see below for Al2O3.

Reaction with acid

All these oxides will react with acids. This is just the old acid + base salt + water equation:

Na2O + 2HCl 2NaCl + H2O

If they ask for a pH range, Na2O is around 12-14 and MgO is around 8 or 9. It has to be soluble in water to
get a pH.


Al2O3 is not very soluble in H2O (insolubility also protects Al from corrosion) so it wont give an alkaline
solution. But it does react with acids similarly to Na2O or MgO. It also reacts with bases (see below). This
means it has its own little category called amphoteric (reacts with acid and base).

Covalent Oxides

Melting Points

SiO2 is a giant covalent structure and therefore has a high melting point and is weakly acidic. You should
know from AS why giant covalent structures have high melting points.

The oxide of phosphorus exists as P4O10. Its just the way it is. Sulphur burns with a blue flame to give
SO2. Both these compounds are simple covalent molecules. They have low melting points as they are held
together by weak van der waals forces. P4O10 has a higher melting point than SO2 as it is bigger and
therefore has more van der waals forces to break.

Note: can also form SO3 by reacting SO2 with O2 using a vanadium catalyst.

Reaction with water

The covalent oxides are acidic. They have a strong + charge on the non-oxygen atom, which attracts the
O in H2O releasing H+. For example (phosphoric acid is the product):

P4O10 + 6H2O 4H3PO4

If they ask to show that the solution is acidic, you can write the acid product as, for example, H+ + H2PO4-
to show that H+ is in solution.

SO2 and SO3 are both give acidic solutions and react with base.

SiO2 does not dissolve in water so dont worry about pH but it will react with a base, therefore it is still
classed as acidic.

Reaction with acid

As these oxides are acidic they will react with base as usual i.e. acid + base salt + H2O. However, be

careful of a reaction such as:

P4O10 + 6MgO 2Mg3(PO4)2
There is no water produced as there is no hydrogen in the acid (P4O10 ) in the first place.
If they ask for a pH range, SO2 is around 2-4. It is a reversible reaction so it is weakly acidic. SO3 is around
0 to 2 as sulphuric acid is produced and P4O10 is around -1 to 2 as phosphoric acid is produced.

Al2O3 again

As mentioned above, Al2O3 is amphoteric. To show that it reacts with base, an example they sometimes
use in exam questions is to react Al2O3 with an excess of aqueous NaOH. This means you need to react it
with NaOH and H2O:

Al2O3 + 2NaOH + 3H2O 2NaAl(OH)4

Reactions of elements with water

The period 3 elements react with water. For example sodium is reactive and produces H2 gas.

2Na(s) +2H2O(l) 2NaOH(aq) + H2(g)

Magnesium is less reactive with water and requires the use of steam but similar products are produced:

Mg(s) + H2O(g) MgO(s) + H2(g)


Na is the most reactive and the reactivity decreases from Mg to Al to Si. Mg will react with steam but Al
and Si will only do so under certain conditions. Phosphorus and sulphur are unreactive towards water.
From AS group 7 you might remember that Cl2 does disproportionation reactions with water, which
would give an acidic solution as HCl is produced.