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Structure and properties of oxides of Carbon, Silicone and lead.

Although all group IV elements, with four outter electrons, carbon, silicone and lead, are
very different and so are their oxides, in a very general sense carbon, the non metal forms
acidic oxides as does silicone the semi metal. Lead the metal however forms amphoteric
oxides ( acidic in the higher oxidation states.) As the group is descended there is a
transition from covalency to conicity and the increased stability of the +2 oxidation state
culminating in lead which displays the most stability of this state in all the group.Oxides
of the elements shall be examined in turn with information of their formation and
occurance, finishing with a more detailed look at just why lead favours this +2 oxidation
stability. An explanation which is a direct consequence of Einstein's popular theory or

Carbon monoxide (fig1) is a linear molecule with a high bond enthalpy (1076KJ) as a
result of the π overlap on the 2p orbitals. The intermolecular distance is only 112.8pm.
This highly toxic gas is formed by incomplete combustion of carbon and is scentless, and
invisible. The strong coordinating properties of carbon are respsonsible for it's poisonous
nature, as it can bind to the iron atom of haemoglobin in he blood with a higher affinity
than the O2 molecule it replaces, hence reducing the oxygen saturation of the blood.
Carbon dioxide is also a colourless and oudorless linear molecule (fig2) it has a bond
length of 116.3pm. It can sublime from solid to an air cooling 'mist' called dry ice used in
theatres and movies, or as a refridgerant in food industries. CO2 can form a supercritical
fluid with propities of a gas and a liquid used to decaffinate coffee and synthesize many
other molecules. It has slight solubility in water forming a weak acid. It is produced
natrally by respiration and is used in photosynthesis. It is also a contributer in what most
people agree is the effect of human actions on rising global temperature, or global
In stark contrast to CO2, SiO2 is a hard crystaline solid with no double bonds ( hence no
pπ-pπ bonding) called silicates. Silicone coordinates with the oxygen in giant crystaline
structures, or silicates. Table 1 shows the main uses of oxides of silicone and Fig 3 shows
the tetrahedral coordination of silicate structures, often described as the [SiO4]4- unit.
Different arrangements of these tetrahedra give rise to thousands of known silicate
Lead, which is below the two elements previously discussed exhibits the stable binalent
species, at +2 oxidation number in mononuclear compounds. Lead(II)'s stability is dues
to the electronic configuration containing an inert pair of electrons in the 6s subshell,
[Xe] 4f145d106s2 due to the forming of the lead(II) ion two 6p electrons are lost. Inside
heavier elements such as lead the electrons are drawn closer to the nucleus than one
would expect, due to relativistic contraction ( in turn a consequence of the theory of
relativity). Since this has a greater affect on S electrons than lead being so hard to remove
the +2 oxidation state is far preferable to the +4 typical of the previously mentioned
group IV elements.1

As all 3 elements have the outer configuration ns2npx1 npy1 the normal oxidation state is +4
( this allows all outer electrons to be used in bonding). However the inert pair effect
within the heavier elements (such as lead) favours the +2 state. Differences in bonding
types, eg. covalent and ionic can be attributed to the metal, semimetal and non-metal
states of the elements concerned.
Finally, Oxygen ( much like fluorine) has a tendency to stabalize higher oxidation


Accessed on the 14th August 2007

Word count = 610