Discuss the general characteristics of Group 15 elements with reference to their electronic configuration, oxidation state, atomic size, ionisation enthalpy and electronegativity.
General trends in group 15 elements
(i) Electronic configuration: All the elements in group 15 have 5 valence electrons. Their general electronic configuration is ns2 np3.
(ii) Oxidation states: All these elements have 5 valence electrons and require three more electrons to complete their octets. However, gaining electrons is very difficult as the nucleus will have to attract three more electrons. This can take place only with nitrogen as it is the smallest in size and the distance between the nucleus and the valence shell is relatively small. The remaining elements of this group show a formal oxidation state of −3 in their covalent compounds. In addition to the −3 state, N and P also show −1 and −2 oxidation states.
All the elements present in this group show +3 and +5 oxidation states. However, the stability of +5 oxidation state decreases down a group, whereas the stability of +3 oxidation state increases. This happens because of the inert pair effect.
(iii) Ionization energy and electronegativity
First ionization decreases on moving down a group. This is because of increasing atomic sizes. As we move down a group, electronegativity decreases, owing to an increase in size.
(iv) Atomic size: On moving down a group, the atomic size increases. This increase in the atomic size is attributed to an increase in the number of shells.