Chemistry of Chromium
Table of contents
Chromium is the 24th element in the periodic table and it is found in about 0.0122% of the Earth's crust. It is named after the Greek word "chroma," meaning color. This element produces many beautifully colored compounds, as well as a wide array of colored solutions. Chromium is also a very useful industrial metal.
Properties of Chromium
|50Cr||1.8 x 1017 years|
Occurrences of Chromium
Chromium is never found in its elemental state in nature. The only exception to that is a diamond deposit in Russia. However, this diamond deposit has a reducing environment, which helps produce small quantities of elemental chromium. Commonly it is found in numerous ores, usually in the mineral chromite. Chromite is the complex of FeCr2O3, or iron chromium oxide. Chromium is also found in other minerals, including magnesiochromite (MgCr2O4). Chromite is found in earth's mantle and is mined most abundantly in South Africa, India, Kazakhstan and Zimbabwe. Through the refining processes, chromite produces both ferrochromium and metallic chromium.
Chromium is found in many different compounds, all with different uses and properties. OS = Oxidation State
|OS: +2||CrO, CrF2, CrCl2, CrS, Cr2(SO4)3|
|OS: +3||Cr2O3, CrF3, CrCl3, [Cr(H2O)6]3+|
|OS: +4||CrO2, CrF4|
|OS: +6||CrO3, Na2Cr2O7, CrO42-, CrOF4|
Chromium Oxides and Hydroxides
Chromium will form many different oxides that exhibit general acid-base behavior as well as displaying a range of different colors.
Chromium (II) oxide
Chromium (II) oxide, CrO, is basic. It is found in the form of an insoluble black powder.
Chromium (III) oxide
Chromium (III) oxide, Cr2O3 is the main oxide of chromium. It is amphoteric and while it is insoluble in water, it will dissolve in acid. It is found in nature in the form of a rare mineral, eskolaite. It is used as a pigment, producing a dark green color.
Chromium dioxide or chromium (IV) oxide, CrO2, in its natural state looks like black crystals. It exhibits ferromagnetic properties and was once widely used as a synthetic magnet in magnetic data tape such as audio cassette tapes. It was considered to be one of the most perfect magnetic pigments for recording tapes because of its thin, long, glass rod like crystals. This amorphous solid can be formed through the thermal decomposition of dichromate complexes.
Chromium trioxide or chromium (VI) oxide, CrO3 is acidic oxide, or acidic anhydride of chromic acid. It will react with water to form chromic acid and will react with a base to form a chromium salt. In solid form, it is a dark red-orange granular complex. It is used in chrome-plating as a strong oxidizer, however, it is extremely toxic.
Chromate and Dichromate
Chromate, CrO42-, is a salt of chromic acid. This salt is associated with a yellow color in basic conditions, for example potassium chromate. Dichromate, Cr2O72-, is a salt of dichromic acid. This salt is associated with a strong orange color in acidic conditions, for example potassium dichromate. However, compounds of chromate or dichromate with heavy metals usually display a red color. Dichromate is a strong oxidizing agent but it is a bad precipitating agent. Chromate on the other hand is used as a precipitating agent but it is a poor oxidizing agent. Chemical equilibrium is displayed when either anion is in an aqueous solution.
2CrO42- (s) + 2H+ (aq) ↔ H2O (l) + Cr2O72- (aq) Kc = 3.2 × 1014
In acidic solution, the forward reaction is favored. In basic solution, the reverse reaction is favored.
Passivation of Chromium
Chromium is one of the few metals that has the property of passivation. Chromium will spontaneously react to form a thin layer of oxide that protects the metal against further corrosion. This surface is hard and nonreactive. This makes chromium ideal for electroplating other metals to protect them from oxidizing, and because of it's hardness, it is used to harden the surface of many objects, such as metal tools.
First discovered in 2005, Chromium, Molybdenum, Tungsten, and Rhenium, all have a special ability to form a quintuple bond; also known as a five fold bond. In Chromium cases, di-chromium was discovered to have a quintuple bond, which means that 10 electrons are participating in the bond with metal - metal. Chromium uses terphenyl ligand to perform this action, thus making it relatively weak, but stable up to 200°C. A quintuple bond is only possible if chromium atom has only one other ligand in order to keep the bond stable. Although the discovery is fairly recent, it has already provided great insight as to how transition metals are able to bond with each other.
Production of Chromium
Chromium is produced from mined minerals such as chromite. The processes used to extract chromium are similar to those of other metals. Chromium oxides can be heated with other substances such as charcoal or aluminum. Through the process of heating, the carbon or aluminum form oxides, leaving chromium in pure metal form. Pure chromium can also be produced by running an electric current through some of its compounds. These are just two ways of extracting chromium from its compounds. There are other processes to extract chromium such the Thermite Process. Chromite and Ferrochromium can also be used directly to add chromium to other substances such as steel.
Applications of Chromium
Chromium has many applications. It has been used in dyes to act as a mordant, which will permanently fix dyes to different fabrics. Chromium has also been used in paints as pigments. This is because chromium exhibits many different colors including; black, gray, green, blue, violet, orange, yellow and red, depending on the compound. Chromium is used as an additive to stainless steel, giving the steel its "stainless" property. Because chromium is self-passivating, it will add a protective layer to the steel. It also acts to harden the steel. Stainless steel containing chromium is a very useful alloy and is used in safes, ball bearings, and surgical tools.
Chrome plating is another application of chromium's self passivation. Metals and other substances are chrome plated to add a protective and attractive outer coat. Chromium metal can be polished to a high shine which will make the metal more attractive. The magnetic properties of chromium make it perfect for magnetic tapes. Chromium dioxide is used in recording tapes. Potassium dichromate has been used in the tanning of leather. Small trace quantities of chromium have been found in semiprecious stones including: rubies, sapphires, emeralds, serpentine and jade. Chromium is also used to line ovens and molds because of its high melting point. This element is even found in the human body. Chromium is common in small quantities in the body and has been connected to the body's use of sugar. It is commonly found in foods such as romaine lettuce, onions and tomatoes. A deficiency of chromium leads to symptoms that are commonly seen in diabetics. Although chromium is good in small quantities, larger quantities of chromium can be extremely harmful to humans.
Answer the following:
- Write the reaction for chromium (VI) equilibrium in aqueous solutions.
- List different oxidation states of chromium and examples of compounds they form.
- Who first made chromium in its metallic form?
- List different oxides of chromium.
- What is chromium's symbol, atomic number and weight?
- What are some common uses of chromium today?
- What is the magnetic property of chromium?
- Write out the electron configuration of: Cr, Cr6+, Cr2+.
- Why is passivation an important property of chromium?
- What are some of the uses of chromium today?
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- Petrucci, Ralph H. Genereal Chemistry: Principles and Modern Applications.9th ed. New Jersey: Pearson Education Inc. 2007.
- Timberlake, Karen C. Chemistry : An Introduction to General, Organic, and Biological Chemistry. 10th ed. Prentice Hall Higher Education, 2008.
- Whisnant, David. Chromium/Dichromate. The Division of Chemical Education Inc., of the American Chemical Society, 2007.
- Images from:
- Kaitlyn Kortright (UCD)
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