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Transition Metal Ions in Aqueous Solution

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Transition Metal Ions in Aqueous Solution

In this article, you will learn about transition metal ions in water and aqueous environments. We will cover how water is able to act as a ligand for transition metal ions, producing complex ions, and how it affects their chemical properties such as the splitting of the d orbitals and the implications of this.

  • We shall first cover the definition of transition metal ions in aqueous solution.
  • We'll look at how water acts as a ligand for transition metal ions.
  • We'll then cover the formation of complex ions and look at the splitting of the d orbitals by ligands.
  • Finally, we shall discover why complex ions are coloured in solutions.

Transition Metal Ions in Aqueous Solution

First, we shall discuss the nature of metal ions in solution and, more importantly, how they form complex ions.

Complex ions are formed from ligands (lone pair electron donors) bonding with transition metal ions in solution.

Transition metals are metals in the d block of the periodic table. They are defined by their irregular electron configurations. Their high charge density when in their ionic form coupled with their small size gives them interesting properties in water.

They can form complex ions in solution, due to the fact that water can act as a ligand. Transition metal ions will always form complex ions when in solution with ligands. A ligand can be any molecule or solvent that can donate a lone pair of electrons, including bases and nucleophiles. Ligands are able to stabilise the metal ion in water through this interaction of lone pair bonding. This stabilisation needs to occur to stabilise the positive charge in an aqueous environment.

Here we shall specifically discuss transition metal ions in aqueous solutions and see how they behave in water-based environments.

Identifying Transition Metal Ions in Aqueous Solutions

There are three key parts of a complex ion to identify. These are the transition metal, the ligands, and the geometry of the complex ion.

You will notice that ligands always surround the transition metal ion in a particular geometric way. In aqueous environments, water will usually surround a transition metal ion with an octahedral geometry, as there will be six substituents around the central metal ion.

In addition to the above, the hydroxide ion is also a base, which is the perfect ligand to donate lone pairs as discussed above.

The bonding that occurs between the transition metal ion and a lone pair of electrons is called a dative covalent bond. This is because both of the shared electrons of the bond are provided by the same atom, in this case the ligand.

Here is a schematic of six water molecules surrounding a transition metal ion in aqueous solution.

Transition Metal Ions in Aqueous Solution, Diagram of Aqueous Transition Metal Ions, StudySmarterDiagram of water ligands surrounding a central metal ion in an octahedral geometry. Source: chemicaltan97.wordpress.com

Do you notice how the overall charge of the ion is not just at the transition metal central ion, but is distributed throughout the whole complex ion? It is written outside the brackets to signify that the ligands take on some of the charge and stabilise it.

Other Types of Complex Ions

Other transition metal ion complexes can arise which have a different geometry and charge. Here are some common examples:

[M(H2O)6]2+, where M can only be Fe and Cu

[M(H2O)6]3+, where M can only be Fe and Al

A key thing to remember is that the acidity of metal ions will change based on the charge. The acidity of [M(H2O)6]3+ is greater than that of [M(H2O)6]2+. This can be attributed to the charge and size ratios of the transition metal ion, which ultimately determine the physical properties of the complex ion formed.

Additionally, some metal hydroxides show amphoteric character by dissolving in both acids and bases. For example, the metal ion of aluminium Al3+.

Example of a Transition Metal Ion in Aqueous Solution

Below you will find a common example of a complex ion. Copper sulphate forms a light blue solution in water. This is due to the copper ions with a charge of 2+ being chelated by the ligand, in this case water, to produce a complex ion.

The entrapment of metal ions by ligands through dative covalent bonding is often called chelating.

In the diagram below, you can see how six water molecules donate their lone pairs of electrons to the central copper ion to produce a complex ion in solution.

Copper sulphate crystals when not dissolved in water are also often blue in colour. This is due to the fact that they have water in their crystal structure (hence the name copper sulphate pentahydrate) which produces the same type of ligands and can chelate the copper ion to produce the beautiful blue colour observed.

 Transition Metal Ions in Aqueous Solution. Copper Sulphate. StudySmarterCupper ion in aqueous solution. Source: chemicaltan97.wordpress.com

Stability of Transition Metal Ions in Aqueous Solutions

Due to the fact that the transition metal ion is very small in its ionic radius but holds such a high charge, it is necessary to thermodynamically stabilise this force within the system, which in this case is the aqueous environment.

Ligands stabilise the transition metal ion in many ways, allowing the transition metal ion to be present in aqueous solutions. First of all, the ligands take on the positive charge and distribute it amongst themselves.

This will be apparent in the last section of this article – Method for transition metal ions in aqueous solution.

The charge is shared within the whole complex ion, thus stabilising it in an aqueous solution.

Secondly, ligands are able to stabilise the orbitals of the transition metal ion. This is a key property that is crucial to elements within the 3d block. The orbitals in transition metals require stabilisation due to their electronic arrangement, as the orbitals in the d block are at the same energy level.

Upon dative covalent bonding with ligands, the d orbitals of the transition metal are split into two energy levels. The diagram below shows the split of orbitals.

Transition Metal Ions in Aqueous Solution.DiagramDescription automatically generated. StudySmarterSplitting of the d orbital by ligands. Source: Lawrie Ryan, A Level Chemistry, 2014

This allows for the direct stabilisation of the orbitals of the transition metals through the ligands. The five orbitals are split into two higher energy state ones and three lower energy state ones. This is the case for octahedral complexes. This results in a stable octahedral configuration of the ligands in solution to produce a stable transition metal complex ion in an aqueous environment.

The splitting of the d orbitals is able to not only stabilise the orbitals and thermodynamically provide a justification for the orbitals in an aqueous environment, but also give very interesting properties to the complex ion that will be discussed in the next section.

Colours of Transition Metal Ions in Aqueous Solutions

Transition metal ions in water absorb specific frequencies of the visible light spectrum, but why is this? When the d orbitals are split from the ligands, they are split into two higher energy orbitals and three lower energy orbitals. This arbitrary shift causes a separation of the energy levels to be equivalent to a specific wavelength.

On the diagram in the previous section above, you will notice that the splitting of orbitals is denoted with a delta E, signifying a change in energy. This energy gap corresponds to a specific wavelength of light.

When an electron is excited through electromagnetic radiation, it will go to a higher energy level. In the case of transition metal ions in aqueous solutions, this will correspond to an electron jumping from the lower three orbitals to the higher two orbitals of the split d orbitals. This phenomenon occurs only in the d block elements since they have a partially filled d orbital.

When an electron jumps from the lower to the higher energy levels of the split d orbitals, it absorbs the specific wavelength of light that the energy gap corresponds to. This means that if you shine white light at the complex ion, one specific wavelength will be absorbed and the rest will be reflected. Thus, to us, the complex will show the complementary colour on the colour wheel.

How do you know which wavelength will be absorbed? Well, this depends on the type of metal ion and which ligands are used to form the complex ion. Different ligands split the d orbitals to different extremes. A smaller split will correspond to a lower energy absorption requirement, thus a longer wavelength of the electromagnetic spectrum, while a larger energy gap will require a smaller wavelength of light to be absorbed for an electron to jump from the lower to the higher energy states. This is all dependent on the type of ion that is dissolved as in aqueous solutions, the ligand (water), will be the same.

Transition Metal Ions in Aqueous Solutions

Here you will find a diagram of how a complex ion is formed. You can use this schematic diagram to outline how transition metal ions are bonded through dative covalent bonds with lone pairs of electrons of water molecules in aqueous solutions, ultimately becoming stabilised.

 Transition Metal Ions in Aqueous Solution, Formation of Transition Metal Ions in Aqueous Solutions, Inorganic Chemistry, StudySmarterDiagram of formation of transition metal ions in aqueous solutions. Source: Lawrie Ryan, Cambridge International AS and A Level Chemistry Coursebook, 2014

Transition Metal Ions in Aqueous Solution - Key takeaways

  • Transition metal ions form complex ions in aqueous solutions.
  • Water acts as a ligand as it can form dative covalent bonds.
  • Ligands can be any molecular species which have a lone pair of electrons.
  • Ligands are able to split the d orbitals of transition metal ions into two energy levels.
  • The energy gap between the split d orbitals corresponds to a specific wavelength on the electromagnetic spectrum.
  • Electrons absorb light and move to higher energy states, resulting in a coloured complex.

Frequently Asked Questions about Transition Metal Ions in Aqueous Solution

Transition metal ions do not react with water but rather form complex ions in aqueous solution, using water as a ligand.

When a transition metal is dissolved in water, it forms complex ions by using water molecules as ligands. The ligands split the d orbitals of the metal ion and produce an energy level gap. 

In aqueous environments, water acts as a ligand for the metal ion, splitting the d orbital in the process. The split d orbitals have an energy gap which corresponds to a wavelength on the electromagnetic spectrum. The complex ion will absorb that specific wavelength of light and display the complementary colour. 

Transition metal ions form complex ions in water, where they use water as a ligand. 

Final Transition Metal Ions in Aqueous Solution Quiz

Question

What type of ions do transition metal ions form in aqueous environments?

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Answer

Transition metal ions form complex ions in aqueous environments. 

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Question

What type of bond is created between water and transition metal ions?

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Answer

Dative covalent bonds are formed between the lone pair of electrons on water and the transition metal ion.

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Question

What type of species can act as ligands for transition metal ions? 

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Answer

Any molecule with a lone pair of electrons is able to act as a ligand for transition metal ions. 

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Question

What is the usual geometry of complex ions in water?

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Answer

Octahedral

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Question

What are transition metals? 

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Answer

They are a part of the d block of the periodic table. 

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Question

What happens to the d orbitals in complex ions?

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Answer

They are split into two energy levels: two at a higher energy level and three at a lower energy level. 

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Question

What facilitates the split of the d orbitals in complex ions?

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Answer

Ligands are responsible for splitting the d orbitals due to geometry and chemical properties. 

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Question

In a complex ion, how is the charge of the transition metal ion distributed?

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Answer

The whole complex ion shares the charge, including the ligands. 

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Question

Why are transition metal complexes coloured?

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Answer

The split d orbitals correspond to a wavelength on the visible electromagnetic spectrum, and an electron can absorb that wavelength.

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Question

What happens when an electron moves up in energy levels in a complex ion?

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Answer

An electron will absorb a specific frequency of light and thus the transition metal complex will display the complementary colour on the colour wheel. 

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Question

Can hydroxide in water act as a ligand for transition metal ions?

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Answer

Yes

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Question

Which of the following can be ligands for transition metal ions?

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Answer

Nucleophiles

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Question

Can atoms with a fully filled d orbital be coloured? Why or why not?

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Answer

No, as electrons are not free to move from one energy level to another since they are all full.

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Question

What colour does Copper Sulphate have when it is dissolved in water?

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Answer

Light blue

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Question

What makes transition metal ions so special and gives them the properties they have when in aqueous environments? 

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Answer

They have a high charge density despite being very small. 

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Question

What is the product of NaOH and Iron (II)?

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Answer

Fe(H2O)4(OH)2(s)

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Question

What is the product of NaOH and Iron (III)?

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Answer

Fe(H2O)3(OH)3(s) 

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Question

What is produced when an excess amount of NaOH is added to Aluminium (II)?

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Answer

[Al(OH)4](aq) 

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Question

What is the product of Copper (II) and sodium carbonate?

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Answer

CuCO3(s) 

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Question

What is the colour of [Fe(H2O)6]3+(aq) ?


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Answer

Orange

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Question

What is the colour of [Al(H2O)6]3+(aq)?


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Answer

Colourless

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Question

What is the product of Copper (II) and excess NH3?

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Answer

[Cu(H2O)2(NH3)4]2+ (aq)

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Question

What is the colour of Al(H2O)3(OH)3(s) ?

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Answer

White

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Question

What is the colour of Fe(H2O)3(OH)3(s)?


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Answer

Brown

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Question

When copper and iron (II) react with sodium carbonate, is it a precipitation reaction or an acidic reaction?

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Answer

Precipitation

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Question

What is the product of NaOH and Copper (II)?




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Answer

Cu(H2O)4(OH)2(s) 

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Question

What is the product of NaOH and Aluminium (III)? (without excess)

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Answer

Al(H2O)3(OH)3(s) 

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Question

What is the colour of FeCO3(s)?

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Answer

Green

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Question

Is FeCO3(s) a solution or precipitate?

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Answer

Precipitate 

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Question

Is CuCO3(s) a precipitate or solution?


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Answer

Precipitate

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