Groups :

 Nitrogen Family

Tool: Interactive Periodic Table

About the Group
The Group 15 elements are generally known as the nitrogen family. All of the elements of this family have five electrons in their outermost energy level. This group is divided into nonmetals, semimetals, and metals by characteristic. The top two elements, nitrogen and phosphorus, are very definitely nonmetals, forming -3 charge anions. Nitrogen is a diatomic gas and phosphorus is a solid. The elements arsenic, antimony, and bismuth all have some characteristics of semimetals such as brittleness as a free element. Arsenic is the only true semimetal of the three, existing in compounds with both -3 or + 5 charges. Antimony and bismuth can exist with a -3 charge in compound but are more commonly found as metals with a +5 charge because of their size. The pull of the positive protons found in their nucleus is so far from the outer shell (highest energy level) that the outer energy level electrons are more easily stripped off than they are able to attract three more electrons to complete the octet. In fact, bismuth is generally classified as a metal.

Chemical Properties
Nitrogen is used in saltpeter for fertilizer and explosives. It is also useful to create an oxygen-free atmosphere to prevent oxidation or combustion. A common use for liquid nitrogen today is the rapid freezing of food products. We also use liquid nitrogen in medical/surgical applications such as cryotherapy and cryosurgery. Phosphorus is used in compounds such as phosphoric acid, to make synthetic fertilizers, and in detergents. Arsenic and antimony are most commonly found in alloys used for the production of batteries and special types of solder. Bismuth is commonly used for alloys of metals and as a component of cosmetics or medicine used to treat upset stomach (Pepto-Bismol) and eczema.

Illustration highlighting the nitrogen family on the periodic table