<img src="https://d5nxst8fruw4z.cloudfront.net/atrk.gif?account=iA1Pi1a8Dy00ym" style="display:none" height="1" width="1" alt="" />

Skip Navigation

Transition Metal Ions

Characteristics and applications of Transition Metals

Atoms Practice
Estimated3 minsto complete
Practice Transition Metal Ions
This indicates how strong in your memory this concept is
Estimated3 minsto complete
Practice Now
Turn In
Transition Metal Ions

Platinum eagle coin

Credit: Courtesy of the US Mint
Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Platinum_eagle101.jpg
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

What kind of coin is this?

Most of us are familiar with the common coins: penny, nickel, quarter.  In some areas (such as Las Vegas), you might see large amounts of silver dollars (these get a little heavy in your pocket).  But most of us have probably never seen a platinum eagle – an eagle coin, but one that is held primarily by collectors.  If you were to take a one-ounce platinum eagle into a store and try to buy one hundred dollars worth of items, the store owner most likely would not believe you when you told them the coin was worth one hundred dollars.  It would also be awkward and annoying if you lost one of these coins out of your pocket.  Platinum is just one of several transition metals that is worth a lot of money (gold is another one).

The group 1 and 2 elements form cations through a simple process that involves the loss of one or more outer shell electrons.  These electrons come from the s orbital and are removed very readily. 

Transition Metal Ions

Most transition metals differ from the metals of Groups 1, 2, and 13 in that they are capable of forming more than one cation with different ionic charges. As an example, iron commonly forms two different ions. It can sometimes lose two electrons to form the Fe2+ ion, while at other times it loses three electrons to form the Fe3+ ion. Tin and lead, though members of the p block rather than the d block, also are capable of forming multiple ions.

Transition elements on the periodic table

Credit: Cepheus, modified by CK-12 Foundation
Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Periodic_table.svg
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

Ionic formation for transition metals is complicated by the fact that these elements have unfilled inner d shells.  Although the next higher s orbitals are actually at a lower energy level than the d level, these s electrons are the ones that are removed during ionization.

Table below lists the names and formulas of some of the common transition metal ions:

Common Transition Metal Ions





copper(I), Cu+

cadmium, Cd2+

chromium(III), Cr3+

lead(IV), Pb4+

gold(I), Au+

chromium(II), Cr2+

cobalt(III), Co3+

tin(IV), Sn4+

mercury(I), Hg22+

cobalt(II), Co2+

gold(III), Au3+

silver, Ag+

copper(II), Cu2+

iron(III), Fe3+

iron(II), Fe2+

lead(II), Pb2+

manganese(II), Mn2+

mercury(II), Hg2+

nickel(II), Ni2+

platinum(II), Pt2+

tin(II), Sn2+

zinc, Zn2+

Uses for Transition Metals

Because there are so many metals in this group, there are a wide variety of uses. Many of the metals are used in electronics, while others (such as gold and silver) are used in monetary systems.  Iron is a versatile structural material.  Cobalt, nickel, platinum, and other metals are employed as catalysts in a number of chemical reactions.  Zinc is a significant component of batteries.


  • Transition metals have unfilled inner d electron shells.
  • Ions form primarily through loss of s electrons.
  • Many transition metals can form more than one ion.
  • Transition metals have a wide variety of applications.


  1. What is unique about the electron configurations of transition metals?
  2. Which electrons of transition metal elements are most likely to be lost during ion formation?
  3. How many ions can iron form?
  4. Which transition metal forms only one ion?
  5. List several uses for transition metals.

Notes/Highlights Having trouble? Report an issue.

Color Highlighted Text Notes
Please to create your own Highlights / Notes
Show More

Image Attributions

  1. [1]^ Credit: Courtesy of the US Mint; Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Platinum_eagle101.jpg; License: CC BY-NC 3.0
  2. [2]^ Credit: Cepheus, modified by CK-12 Foundation; Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Periodic_table.svg; License: CC BY-NC 3.0

Explore More

Sign in to explore more, including practice questions and solutions for Transition Metal Ions.
Please wait...
Please wait...