Transition Metals: List and Properties

Harry Taylor/Getty Images

The largest group of elements on the periodic table is that of the transition metals, which is found in the middle of the table. Also, the two rows of elements below the main body of the periodic table (the lanthanides and actinides) are special subsets of these metals. These elements are called "transition metals" because the electrons of their atoms make the transition to filling the d subshell or d sublevel orbital. Thus, the transition metals are also known as the d-block elements. 

Here is a list of elements that are considered to be transition metals or transition elements. This list does not include the lanthanides or actinides, just the elements in the main part of the table.

List of Elements That Are Transition Metals

Transition Metal Properties

The transition metals are the elements you normally think of when you imagine a metal. These elements share properties in common with each other:

  • They are excellent conductors of heat and electricity.
  • The transition metals are malleable (easily hammered into shape or bent).
  • These metals tend to be very hard.
  • Transition metals look shiny and metallic. Most transition metals are grayish or white (like iron or silver), but gold and copper have colors not seen in any other elements on the periodic table.
  • The transition metals, as a group, have high melting points. The exception is mercury, which is a liquid at room temperature. By extension, these elements also have high boiling points.
  • Their d orbitals become progressively filled as you move from left to right across the periodic table. Because the subshell is not filled, atoms of the transition metals have positive oxidation states and also display more than one oxidation state. For example, iron commonly carries a 3+ or 2+ oxidation state. Copper may have a 1+ or 2+ oxidation state. The positive oxidation state means the transition metals typically form ionic or partially ionic compounds.
  • Atoms of these elements have low ionization energies.
  • Transition metals form colored complexes, so their compounds and solutions may be colorful. The complexes split the d orbital into two energy sublevels so they absorb specific wavelengths of light. Because of the different oxidation states, it's possible for one element to produce complexes and solutions in a wide range of colors.
  • Although the transition metals are reactive, they are not as reactive as elements belonging to the alkali metals group.
  • Many transition metals form paramagnetic compounds.