All the elements in the periodic table serve a purpose, and even if not, they do have some unique features and characteristics worth studying, hence, this article is a brief upon the transition elements aka D and F block elements

We will cover an introduction of each, their electronic configuration, their properties and applications below.

The d-block of the periodic table contains the elements of the groups 3-12 in which the d orbitals are progressively filled in each of the four long periods. The elements constituting the f -block are those in which the 4 f and 5 f orbitals are progressively filled in the latter two long periods; these elements are formal members of group 3 from which they have been taken out to form a separate f-block of the periodic table. The names transition metals and inner transition metals are often used to refer to the elements of d-and f-blocks respectively.

D-block elements - Transition elements

There are mainly three series of the transition metals, 3d series (Sc to Zn), 4d series (Y to Cd) and 5d series (La to Hg,  omitting Ce to Lu). The fourth 6d series which begins with Ac is still incomplete. The two series of the inner transition metals, (4f and 5f) are known as lanthanoids and actinoids respectively.

The elements which are present between s and p-block elements in the modern periodic table are called transition elements.Transition elements have partly filled (n-1) d-orbitals.

In transition elements the last electron enters penultimate d orbitals i.e. (n-1)d orbitals and that is why they are called d-block elements.

The general valence shell configurations of transition elements is  (n-1)d1–10.ns0, 1, 2.

All the d-block elements are classified into four series viz 3d, 4d, 5d and 6d series corresponding to the filling of 3d, 4d, 5d and 6d orbitals.


F Block - Inner transition Elements


f –block elements are also called inner transition elements. In these the last electron enters penultimate i.e. (n – 2)f f orbital. The differentiating electron in transition elements may enter either 4f or 5f orbitals based upon which they are differentiated into lanthanides and actinides.                                                                                          Lanthanides: In lanthanides the differentiating electron enters 4f orbital. These are cerium to lutetium. The name lanthanides is because they come immediately after lanthanum.

Actinides: In actinides the differentiating electron enters 5f orbitals. These are thorium to lawrencium. These elements come immediately after actinium.

In the lanthanoids, La(II) and Ln(III) compounds are predominant species. However, occasionally +2 and +4 ions in solution or in solid compounds are also obtained.

All the lanthanoids are silvery white soft metals and tarnish rapidly in air. The hardness increases with increasing atomic number, samarium being steel hard. Their melting points range between 1000 to 1200 K but samarium melts at 1623 K. They have typical metallic structure and are good conductors of heat and electricity. Density and other properties change smoothly except for Eu and Yb and occasionally for Sm and Tm.

The actinoids are radioactive elements and the earlier members have relatively long half-lives, the latter ones have half-life values ranging from a day to 3 minutes for lawrencium (Z =103).

Electronic configuration: General electronic configuration of f – block elements is (n–2)f1–14(n–1)d0–1ns2

  • Lanthanides: [Xe]4f1–145d0–16s2    

  • Actinides: [Rn]5f1–146d0–17s2

Properties -

Nearly all the transition elements display typical metallic properties such as high tensile strength, ductility, malleability, high thermal and electrical conductivity and metallic lustre.  With the exceptions of Zn, Cd, Hg and Mn, they have one or more typical metallic structures at normal temperatures.The transition metals (with the exception of Zn, Cd and Hg) are very much hard and have low volatility. Their melting and boiling points are high.                                                                                                   One of the notable features of a transition element is the great variety of oxidation states it may show in its compounds. The elements which give the greatest number of oxidation states occur in or near the middle of the series. Manganese, for example, exhibits all the oxidation states from +2 to +7. The lesser number of oxidation states at the extreme ends stems from either too few electrons to lose or share (Sc, Ti) or too many d electrons (hence fewer orbitals available in which to share electrons with others) for higher valence (Cu, Zn).

When an electron from a lower energy d orbital is excited to a higher energy d orbital, the energy of excitation corresponds to the frequency of light absorbed (Unit 9). This frequency generally lies in the visible region. The colour observed corresponds to the complementary colour of the light absorbed. The frequency of the light absorbed is determined by the nature of the ligand. In aqueous solutions where water molecules are the ligands.

The transition metals and their compounds are known for their catalytic activity. This activity is ascribed to their ability to adopt multiple oxidation states and to form complexes. Vanadium(V) oxide (in Contact Process), finely divided iron (in Haber’s Process), and nickel (in Catalytic Hydrogenation) are some of the examples.

An alloy is a blend of metals prepared by mixing the components. Alloys may be homogeneous solid solutions in which the atoms of one metal are distributed randomly among the atoms of the other. Such alloys are formed by atoms with metallic radii that are within about 15 percent of each other. Because of similar radii and other characteristics of transition metals, alloys are readily formed by these metals. The alloys so formed are hard and have often high melting points. The best known are ferrous alloys: chromium, vanadium, tungsten, molybdenum and manganese are used for the production of a variety of steels and stainless steel.



Iron and steels are the most important construction materials. Their production is based on the reduction of iron oxides, the removal of impurities and the addition of carbon and alloying metals such as Cr, Mn and Ni. Some compounds are manufactured for special purposes such as TiO for the pigment industry and MnO2 for use in dry battery cells. The battery industry also requires Zn and Ni/Cd. V2O5 catalyses the oxidation of SO2 in the manufacture of sulphuric acid. TiCl4 with A1(CH3)3 forms the basis of the Ziegler catalysts used to manufacture polyethylene (polythene).