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Learning ObjectivesTo understand the periodic trends and reactivity of the group 17 elements: the halogens.
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Because the halogens are highly reactive, none is found in nature as the free element. Hydrochloric acid, which is a component of aqua regia (a mixture of HCl and HNO3 that dissolves gold), and the mineral fluorspar (CaF2) were well known to altasiilaq.netists, who used them in their quest for gold. Despite their presence in familiar substances, none of the halogens was even recognized as an element until the 19th century.
Because the halogens are highly reactive, none is found in nature as the free element.
Chlorine was the first halogen to be obtained in pure form. In 1774, Carl Wilhelm Scheele (the codiscoverer of oxygen) produced chlorine by reacting hydrochloric acid with manganese dioxide. Scheele was convinced, however, that the pale green gas he collected over water was a compound of oxygen and hydrochloric acid. In 1811, Scheele’s “compound” was identified as a new element, named from the Greek chloros, meaning “yellowish green” (the same stem as in chlorophyll, the green pigment in plants). That same year, a French industrial tasiilaq.netist, Bernard Courtois, accidentally added too much sulfuric acid to the residue obtained from burned seaweed. A deep purple vapor was released, which had a biting aroma similar to that of Scheele’s “compound.” The purple substance was identified as a new element, named iodine from the Greek iodes, meaning “violet.” Bromine was discovered soon after by a young French tasiilaq.netist, Antoine Jérôme Balard, who isolated a deep red liquid with a strong chlorine-like odor from brine from the salt marshes near Montpellier in southern France. Because many of its properties were intermediate between those of chlorine and iodine, Balard initially thought he had isolated a compound of the two (perhaps ICl). He soon realized, however, that he had discovered a new element, which he named bromine from the Greek bromos, meaning “stench.” Currently, organic chlorine compounds, such as PVC (polyvinylchloride), consume about 70% of the Cl2 produced annually; organobromine compounds are used in much smaller quantities, primarily as fire retardants.
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Because of the unique properties of its compounds, fluorine was believed to exist long before it was actually isolated. The mineral fluorspar (now called fluorite