Chemistry of the Elements I (CHEM*3640)

Code and section: CHEM*3640*01

Term: Fall 2023


General Information

Department of Chemistry

Chemistry of the Elements I
CHEM 3640
Fall 2023

Calendar Description

CHEM*3640  Chemistry of the Elements I  Fall Only  (LEC: 3, LAB: 3)  [0.50]  
A comprehensive introduction to concepts used by inorganic chemists to describe the structure, properties, and reactivity of compounds of the main group elements. The most important concepts covered are: Electronic fine structure of atoms, symmetry, VSEPR, VB and MO theory, theory of acids and bases, structure of solids, trends in the periodic system, survey of typical main group elements compounds and their reactivity.

Prerequisite(s): CHEM*2070  
Department(s): Department of Chemistry  
Location(s): Guelph

(... it is assumed that you actually have active knowledge of what was covered in these courses ... see “Chapter 0” of the lecture notes on CourseLink).

Objective of the course

This course aims to give a comprehensive introduction to concepts used by (inorganic) chemists to describe the structure, properties and reactivity of compounds of the main group elements. The most important of these concepts that the course will cover are: Electronic Structure of Atoms, Symmetry, MO theory, Acids & Bases, Structure of Solids, Trends in the Periodic System. In addition, a brief overview of the substance chemistry and some technical and industrial application of the main group elements will be discussed.

In the lab portion of the course, students will then have the opportunity to observe some of these concepts “in action”.

... and a personal note from Prof. Schlaf: 3rd year is the first time that we have “chemists only” in the class & lab. My aim then becomes to train chemical professionals that I see as having the same level of ability and responsibility as a lawyer, engineer, or surgeon. I take pride in that and I hope you will too and let me know, if I succeed in it ...

Course Learning Outcomes and Objectives

  • Review of basic quantum mechanical concepts and the electronic fine-structure of the atom. Atomic spectra and Term Symbols.
  • An understanding of the Periodic System of the Elements (PSE) and the quantum mechanical principles and foundations.
  • Electronegativity as the 3rd dimension of the PSE.
  • Review of basic chemical bonding concepts such as Lewis Structures, VSEPR, oxidation states and formal charges. Ketelaar’s Triangle.
  • The use of symmetry and point group for the description of molecular structures.
  • The application of Valence Bond (VB) and Molecular Orbital (MO) Theory for the description of the structure and reactivity of main group element compounds.
  • The application of fundamental thermodynamic and kinetic concepts to the reactions of main group elements compounds.
  • The classification of compounds into acid and bases employing Brønsted and Lewis theory and the Hard/Soft concept.
  • Knowledge of the most important main group element compounds, their reactivity, industrial relevance and associated large-scale processes and applications.
  • Proficiency in the synthesis and characterization of representative main group element compounds; NMR, IR, UV-VS, and Mass Spectrocopy.
  • Handling and manipulation of air- and water-sensitive compounds; Schlenk techniques.
  • Demonstrated ability to keep a laboratory journal and compliance with laboratory safety regulations.
  • Data interpretation and preparation of Laboratory Reports in literary English using various software packages.


Course Materials

You must have a periodic table and learn the main group elements names and positions in it by heart in the first two weeks of the course!

Lecture notes, problem sets, old exams, etc., will be made available on CourseLink.

Suggested textbooks

  • Inorganic Chemistry, 5th edition
    Gary L. Miessler, Paul J. Fischer, Donald A. Tarr
    Pearson, 2021, ISBN-10 9780321811059; ISBN-13 978-0321811059
  • Inorganic Chemistry, 6th Ed.
    Shriver – Weller – Overton – Rourke – Armstrong
    Freeman, 2014, ISBN-13: 978-1-4292-9906-0; ISBN-10: 1-4292-9906-1 (There is also a solutions manual available for this book).
  • Inorganic Chemistry, 7th Ed.
    Weller – Overton – Rourke – Armstrong OUP, 2018, ISBN: 9780198768128

Other textbooks on Inorganic Chemistry

  • B.E. Douglas, D.J. Daniels, J.J Alexander “Concepts and Models of Inorganic Chemistry” Wiley, 1994, QD475.D65
  • K.F. Purcell, J.C. Kotz
    “Inorganic Chemistry”
    Saunders, 1977, QD151.2.P87
    (if you can ever get a hold of this book – buy it but make sure it is the much longer “International Edition”. It is simply the very best there is, but unfortunately out of print - an newer abridged American version may be available but not half as good).
  • A. Earnshaw, N.N. Greenwood “Chemistry of the Elements QD466 .G74 1997
  • J.E. Huheey, E.A. Keiter, R.L. Keiter
    “Inorganic chemistry : principles of structure and reactivity” HarperCollins College Publishers, 1993, QD 151.2.H84
  • F.A. Cotton, G. Wilkinson “Advanced Inorganic Chemistry” Wiley, 1988, QD151.2.C68
  • J.D. Atwood
    “Inorganic and Organometallic Reaction Mechanism” Brooks/Cole, 1985, QD501.A89
  • C. Elschenbroich, A. Salzer “Organometallics”
    VCH, 1989, QD 411.E4413
  • Gary O. Spessard, Gary L. Miessler “Organometallic chemistry” Prentice-Hall, 1997, QD 411.S65

There are many other excellent textbooks that cover inorganic chemistry – look around, as it is often useful to get a different perspective on something you don’t understand (yet). Very good articles on many of the topics covered in the course can also be found in the Journal of Chemical Education. Also: why not just type in a keyword on the topic of your interest in your favorite browser – who knows what’s out there...

Required Software

You will very likely need ChemDraw to complete your lab reports. The Department of Chemistry has a site licence for all members of the department. You should be able to download the software by first registering here with your UG email address while running the UG VPN: and then download the software by logging in here:


Class Meeting Times

Course instructor, time and location information are available on CourseLink or WebAdvisor.

Exams and Deadlines

Midterm 1: Fri., 2023-10-13 – in class in regular paper format.
Midterm 2: Fri., 2023-11-17 – in class in regular paper format.

Missed midterm examinations can – at the sole, only, and incontestable discretion of the course instructor – be replaced by an ad hoc oral exam (in persona) at a time and place of the course instructor’s choice.

Final: 2023-12-12, 08:30-10:30 h; location TBA Dr. Schlaf’s office hours: By appointment.

You can also ask questions on the CourseLink Discussion Forum or by e-mail and I will respond at the earliest possible convenience.



Theoretical part (70 % of total mark):
Midterm 1: 21 % (= 30 % of lecture portion)
Midterm 2: 21 % (= 30 % of lecture portion)
Final: 28 % (= 40 % of lecture portion)

Laboratory (30 % of total mark): Lab and lab report marks 30 %

Important notes and additional evaluation rules

You must achieve 50 % in each of the course segments separately to pass the course, i.e., you must have a minimum of 15 % of your total course marks from the lab and a minimum of 35 % of total course marks from the lecture portion of the course!

(This is primarily a safety and liability issue – there must be a way to expel students from the course/lab, who, e.g., by non-compliance with safety regulations or by practical or theoretical incompetence, endanger themselves or others).


Laboratory Information

Lab work will start the week of 2023-09-11. Required information for the Laboratory portion of this course will be contained in the accompanying lab manual

Specific Laboratory Learning Objectives: This is the penultimate capstone Inorganic Chemistry lab where students experience experiments designed to simulate a research Laboratory and prepare them for a 4th year research projectand/or graduate school.

To consolidate student practical skill in Inorganic Chemistry laboratory techniques:

  • Perfect experimental skills in utilizing specialized glassware to conduct chemical reactions under inert atmosphere.
  • Consolidate ability to assess chemical hazards and analyze safety requirements (PPE, equipment, safe handling techniques and proper hazardous waste disposal).
  • Conduct complex synthesis based on chemical literature procedures.
  • Be able to safely dispense pyrophoric reagents under inert atmosphere.
  • Be able to prepare, handle, characterize and properly store air/moisture sensitive compounds.
  • Be able to prepare, handle, characterize and properly store paramagnetic compounds.
  • Be able to use a Schlenk double manifold vacuum line.
  • Be able to use an inert atmosphere glove box.
  • Be able to operate a FT-NMR instrument unaided including proper sample preparation and data interpretation.
  • Be able to operate a FTIR and ATR-FTIR spectrometer and interpret the spectra.
  • Be able to operate a UV-VIS spectrometer unaided.
  • Be able to operate a magnetic susceptibility balance.
  • Consolidate ability to conduct lab work in a safe, organized and efficient manner.
  • Consolidate ability properly document experimental work in a Lab book.
  • Provide written reports in professional format on experimental work conducted with a meaningful interpretation and discussion of data collected in literary English and submit these reports by the required deadlines.

University Statements

Covid Information

Please note that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic may necessitate a revision of the format of course offerings, changes in classroom protocols, and academic schedules. Any such changes will be announced via CourseLink and/or class email. This includes on-campus scheduling during the semester, mid-terms and final examination schedules. All University-wide decisions will be posted on the COVID-19 website and circulated by email.

Students are encouraged to wear a face mask in order to attend class and lab.

Please note, these guidelines may be updated as required in response to evolving University, Public Health or government directives.

Appropriate Online Behaviour

Inappropriate online behaviour will not be tolerated. Examples of inappropriate online behaviour include:

  • Posting inflammatory messages about your instructor or fellow students
  • Using obscene or offensive language online
  • Copying or presenting someone else's work as your own
  • Adapting information from the Internet without using proper citations or references
  • Buying or selling term papers or assignments
  • Posting or selling course materials to course notes websites
  • Having someone else complete your quiz or completing a quiz for/with another student
  • Stating false claims about lost quiz answers or other assignment submissions
  • Threatening or harassing a student or instructor online
  • Discriminating against fellow students, instructors and/or TAs
  • Using the course website to promote profit-driven products or services
  • Attempting to compromise the security or functionality of the learning management system
  • Sharing your username and password
  • Recording lectures without the permission of the instructor

E-mail Communication

As per university regulations, all students are required to check their <> e-mail account regularly: e-mail is the official route of communication between the University and its students.

When You Cannot Meet a Course Requirement

When you find yourself unable to meet an in-course requirement because of illness or compassionate reasons, please advise the course instructor (or designated person, such as a teaching assistant) in writing, with your name, id#, and e-mail contact. See the undergraduate calendar for information on regulations and procedures for Academic Consideration.


Medical notes will not normally be required for singular instances of academic consideration, although students may be required to provide supporting documentation for multiple missed assessments or when involving a large part of a course (e.g. final exam or major assignment).

Drop Date

Courses that are one semester long must be dropped by the end of the last day of classes; two-semester courses must be dropped by the last day of classes in the second semester. The regulations and procedures for Dropping Courses are available in the Undergraduate Calendar.

Copies of out-of-class assignments

Keep paper and/or other reliable back-up copies of all out-of-class assignments: you may be asked to resubmit work at any time.


The University promotes the full participation of students who experience disabilities in their academic programs. To that end, the provision of academic accommodation is a shared responsibility between the University and the student.

When accommodations are needed, the student is required to first register with Student Accessibility Services (SAS). Documentation to substantiate the existence of a disability is required, however, interim accommodations may be possible while that process is underway.

Accommodations are available for both permanent and temporary disabilities. It should be noted that common illnesses such as a cold or the flu do not constitute a disability.

Use of the SAS Exam Centre requires students to book their exams at least 7 days in advance, and not later than the 40th Class Day.

Academic Misconduct

The University of Guelph is committed to upholding the highest standards of academic integrity and it is the responsibility of all members of the University community – faculty, staff, and students – to be aware of what constitutes academic misconduct and to do as much as possible to prevent academic offences from occurring. University of Guelph students have the responsibility of abiding by the University's policy on academic misconduct regardless of their location of study; faculty, staff and students have the responsibility of supporting an environment that discourages misconduct. Students need to remain aware that instructors have access to and the right to use electronic and other means of detection.

Please note: Whether or not a student intended to commit academic misconduct is not relevant for a finding of guilt. Hurried or careless submission of assignments does not excuse students from responsibility for verifying the academic integrity of their work before submitting it. Students who are in any doubt as to whether an action on their part could be construed as an academic offence should consult with a faculty member or faculty advisor.

The Academic Misconduct Policy is detailed in the Undergraduate Calendar.

Recording of Materials

Presentations which are made in relation to course work—including lectures—cannot be recorded or copied without the permission of the presenter, whether the instructor, a classmate or guest lecturer. Material recorded with permission is restricted to use for that course unless further permission is granted.
By enrolling in a course, unless explicitly stated and brought forward to their instructor, it is assumed that students agree to the possibility of being recorded during lecture, seminar or other “live” course activities, whether delivery is in-class or online/remote. If a student prefers not to be distinguishable during a recording, they may:

  1. turn off their camera
  2. mute their microphone
  3. edit their name (e.g., initials only) upon entry to each session
  4. use the chat function to pose questions.

Students who express to their instructor that they, or a reference to their name or person, do not wish to be recorded may discuss possible alternatives or accommodations with their instructor.


The Academic Calendars are the source of information about the University of Guelph’s procedures, policies and regulations which apply to undergraduate, graduate and diploma programs.