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Metals and Non-Metals

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All the elements around us are categorised into three categories metals, non-metals and metalloids. Thus we can say that all the elements in the periodic table are divided into these three categories. Metals and Non-metals are two types of substances that may be distinguished by their physical and chemical characteristics. Metals are elements that are typically hard due to the presence of a strong metallic connection between the atoms. Non-metals, on the other hand, are generally soft in nature. 

Metals are defined as elements that have one, two, or three electrons in their valence shell. Non-metals are elements containing 4, 5, 6, or 7 electrons in their outermost shell.

Let’s learn about metals, non-metals, their properties and differences in this article.

What are Metals?

Metals are substances that are formed naturally below the surface of the Earth. Most of the metals are lustrous, i.e. they are shiny. Metals are made of substances that were never alive. 

This means that they are inorganic. They are natural compounds of the earth’s crust, which are generally found in the form of metal ores. They are associated with each other and also with other elements. Metals are present in the rocks that are washed up by surface water and groundwater. They also appear in atmospheric dust. They are strong, ductile, malleable and good conductors of heat and electricity. Metals are used in the manufacturing of automobiles, satellites, and cooking utensils, among other things. The majority of metals are typically hard. Sodium and potassium are notable exceptions. Knives can be used to cut them. Most metals are solid except mercury which is a liquid metal at room temperature.

Some common metals, such as Gold, Silver and Copper are shown in the image below.

Examples of Metals


Physical Properties of Metals

The various physical properties of the metal are,

  • Conductivity: Metals are good conductors of heat and electricity and thus they find applications in day-to-day life like cooking utensils which are made of iron or aluminium as they are good conductors of heat.
  • Malleability: Metals are malleable in nature. Malleability is the property of metals that allows them to be beaten into flat sheets.
  • Ductility: The capacity of a substance to be drawn into a wire is known as ductility, and it is this property that permits metals to be used as cable wires and for soldering.
  • Sonorous: Metals are sonorous in nature they produce a deep or ringing sound when struck with another hard object.
  • Lustrous: Most metals are lustrous in nature, i.e. they have a shiny appearance.
  • Solid: Metals are generally solid in nature except for Mercury which is a liquid metal.

Chemical Properties of Metals

Metals have various chemical properties some of the properties of metals are listed below.

  • Metals produce metal oxide when reacting with the oxygen in the air.
  • Some metals like sodium and potassium are highly reactive and they can react vigorously with moisture in the air and are thus, stored in an oil bottle.
  • Metals are highly corrosive and they react with oxygen and water in the air to form rust.
  • Meals react with bases to form salt and liberate hydrogen.
  • Metals are good reducing agents

Uses and Applications of Metals

Metals are usually very strong, durable and highly immune to everyday wear and tear. As such, they need been used in past for tons of things. Even now, with developments in technology and a slew of other factors, metals’ applications have expanded significantly. Metals are even important in the economy.

  • Construction Industry: Metals are the most component within the housing industry. Iron and steel are amongst the most utilized metals in the construction of buildings and even homes.
  • Electronics: Metals are utilised to make cables and parts for electrically powered devices and gadgets because they are good conductors of electricity. TVs, cell phones, refrigerators, irons, and computers are just a few examples.
  • Medicine: Metal elements are required for a variety of functions, including nerve impulse transmission, oxygen flow, enzyme reaction, and so on. To treat particular deficiencies or illnesses, several medicines are combined with metal compounds. Antacids contain metals such as iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, titanium, and aluminium, which are commonly used in medicine.
  • Automobiles and Machinery: They are widely employed in the production of machines for industry, agriculture, and farming, as well as autos such as road vehicles, railways, aeroplanes, and rockets. Iron, aluminium, and steel are the most often used metals in this area. The majority of cooking utensils are constructed of metals such as steel, aluminium, and copper. Metals are preferred because of their excellent thermal resistance.
  • Other Uses: These days, most furniture is made of metal. Metals are also employed in the military, where they are used in the production of weapons and ammunition. Galvanizing protects metals from rusting by using certain metals.

What are Non-Metals?

Elements that lack the attributes of metals are called non-metals.

Non-metals are good insulators of heat and electricity. They are mostly gases and liquids. Some non-metals are solid at room temperature. E.g. Carbon, sulphur and phosphorus. 

Some common non-metals are shown in the image below.

Examples of Non-Metals


Physical Properties of Non-Metals

The various physical properties of the non-metal are,

  • Non-metals are poor conductors of heat and electricity. A notable exception is “Graphite” which is a good conductor of heat and electricity.
  • Non-metal are not ductile in nature except for the carbon nanotube which is ductile in nature.
  • Non-metal are not malleable and they are brittle i.e. they break when hit by a hammer or when force is applied.
  • Non-metal are not lustrous as they do not have any shiny appearance.
  • Non-metals don’t produce a deep ringing sound when they are hit with another material. Thus, they are not sonorous.

Chemical Properties of Non-metals

Non-metals have various chemical properties some of the properties of non-metals are listed below.

  • Non-Metals are more reactive than metals.
  • Non-Metals react with oxygen to form acidic oxide.
  • Non-metals react with other non-metals at high temperatures

Uses and Applications of Non-Metals

Various uses and applications of non-metals are,

  • Daily Life: The respiration process is aided by oxygen, which is 21 % by volume. It’s also utilised to make steel and maintain a high temperature during the metal fabrication process. In the hospital, oxygen cylinders are used. As a bleaching chemical, chlorine is effective in eliminating stains and colour patches. Chlorine is used to make a variety of polymers and pesticides. It aids with water filtration. How? Bacteria are killed when chlorine is added to drinking water. For scientific experiments, helium is employed as an inert gas. Weather balloons use it as well. Iodine is used as an antiseptic in the treatment of wounds and cuts, as well as in the treatment of throat infections.
  • Fertilizers: Nitrogen is found in fertilizers. It aids in the growth of plants. It boosts the plant’s growth rate. Plants can also benefit from non-metallic phosphorus. These two nonmetals are essential for plant growth.
  • Crackers: Sulphur and phosphorus are used in fireworks.

Differences Between Metals And Non-Metals

The study of metals and non-metals is very important in the study of chemistry. The basic difference between metals and non-metals is discussed in the image below,

Differences Between Metals And Non-Metals


Various differences between Metals And Non-Metals are discussed below in the table,



Metals are solids at room temperature except for mercury which is liquid at room temperature. Non-metal exists in all three states i.e. solid, liquid and gases
Metals are generally very hard except for Sodium, Potassium and Mercury. Non-metals are generally soft in nature except for Diamond and Graphite which are solid in nature.
Metals are malleable and ductile in nature Non-metals are brittle in nature and can break into pieces if struck by a hammer.
Metals are electropositive in nature. Non-metals are electronegative in nature.
Metals have high densities. Non-metals have very low densities.
Metals are lustrous in nature. Non-metals are non-lustrous in nature.

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FAQs on Metals and Non-Metals

Q1: Define metals and non-metals.


Metals and non metals are the substances which our Earth is comprised of. All the elements in the periodic table are categorized into three categories that are metal, non-metal and metalloids.

Q2: What is meant by Electronegativity? 


The tendency of an atom to attract the shared pair of the electrons in a bond pair is termed as the electronegativity. Non metals have high electronegativity. Among all the non metals Chlorine has the highest electronegativity.

Q3: How do metals and non-metals react?


Non-metals are electronegative in nature. They have very high electron affinity to complete their octet whereas metals are electropositive in nature they lose electrons to attain noble gas configuration. So there takes place a complete sharing of electrons between the metal and non-metal forming a bond between them. Such bonds are called ionic bonds. In this way metal and non-metal react.

Q4: How many metals and nonmetals are there in the periodic table?


Periodic table has table of 118 elements. In the periodic table it has 93 metals, 18 non-metals and 7 metalloids.

Q5: How to know if the element is metal or non-metal?


We can identify metal and non metal using the periodic table. As elements present in the left hand side and center of the table are metals whereas the elements at the right hand side of the table are non-metals except for the Hydrogen whose position is not fixed in the periodic table.

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Last Updated : 24 Apr, 2023
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