Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index


The chalcogens are the name for the periodic table group 16 (old-style: VIB or VIA) in the Periodic Table. It consists of the elements Oxygen (O), Sulfur (S), Selenium (Se), Tellurium (Te), and the radioactive Polonium (Po).

Their compounds, particularly the sulfides, selenides and tellurides are collectively known as chalcogenides. A term like 'chalcides' might have been a more logical derivative from chalcogen, like halide is from halogen, but the scientific language is, like any language, not always logical.

The name is generally considered to mean "ore former" from the Greek chalcos "ore" and -gen "formation". [1]

Oxygen and sulfur are nonmetals, polonium is a true metal, and selenium and tellurium are metalloid semiconductors (i.e., their electrical properties are between those of a metal and an insulator). Nevertheless, tellurium, as well as selenium, is often referred to as a metal when in elemental form.

Chalcogenides are quite common as minerals. E.g. FeS2 pyrite is an iron ore and AuTe2 gave its name to the gold rush town of Telluride, Colorado in the USA.

The oxidation number of the chalcogen is generally -2 in a chalcogenide but other values (e.g. -1 in pyrite) can be attained.

The highest oxidation number +6 is found in sulfates, selenates and tellurates, e.g. in Na2SeO4 sodium selenate

See also: Periodic table of elements