The Alkali Metals

The first group on the left of the Periodic Table, Group 1 (IA) is known as the Alkali Metals.


The alkali metals are highly reactive metals that do not exist by themselves in nature. They are highly reactive because they have just one valence electron, which they can easily give up to form an ionic compound. Valence electrons refer to the electrons in their outermost shell. As metals, the alkali metals share properties common to all metals, such as malleability (the ability to be hammered), ductility (the ability to be stretched) and conductivity (metals are good conductors of both heat and electricity). Further, the alkali metals are softer than most other metals. Because of their high reactivity, these metals literally explode in water, and are therefore usually stored in oil to prevent water contact. This is how they got their name. “Alkali” means basic, from the Arabic word “al qali” (from the ashes). When alkali metals react with water, they form hydroxide ions, raising the pH above 7.

Hydrogen, though at the top of the alkali metal group, is NOT an alkali metal. In fact, it’s not a metal at all. But, since it contains one valence electron, and easily gives up that valence electron to form compounds, it is placed here in the periodic table.