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Metals, metalloids and non-metals

The elements in the Periodic Table can also be divided according to whether they are metals , metalloids or non-metals . On the right hand side of the Periodic Table you can draw a 'zigzag' line (This line starts with Boron ( B ) and goes down to Polonium ( Po ). This line separates all the elements that are metals from those that are non-metals. Metals are found on the left of the line, and non-metals are those on the right. Along the line you find the metalloids. You should notice that there are more metals then non-metals. Metals, metalloids and non-metals all have their own specific properties.


Examples of metals include copper ( Cu ), zinc ( Zn ), gold ( Au ) and silver ( Ag ). On the Periodic Table, the metals are on the left of the zig-zag line. There are a large number of elements that are metals. The following are some of the properties of metals:

  • Thermal conductors Metals are good conductors of heat. This makes them useful in cooking utensils such as pots and pans.
  • Electrical conductors Metals are good conductors of electricity. Metals can be used in electrical conducting wires.
  • Shiny metallic lustre Metals have a characteristic shiny appearance and so are often used to make jewellery.
  • Malleable This means that they can be bent into shape without breaking.
  • Ductile Metals (such as copper) can be stretched into thin wires, which can then be used to conduct electricity.
  • Melting point Metals usually have a high melting point and can therefore be used to make cooking pots and other equipment that needs to become very hot, without being damaged.

You can see how the properties of metals make them very useful in certain applications.

Group work : looking at metals

  1. Collect a number of metal items from your home or school. Some examples are listed below:
    • hammer
    • wire
    • cooking pots
    • jewellery
    • nails
    • coins
  2. In groups of 3-4, combine your collection of metal objects.
  3. What is the function of each of these objects?
  4. Discuss why you think metal was used to make each object. You should consider the properties of metals when you answer this question.


In contrast to metals, non-metals are poor thermal conductors, good electrical insulators (meaning that they do not conduct electrical charge) and are neither malleable nor ductile. The non-metals are found on the right hand side of the Periodic Table, and include elements such as sulphur ( S ), phosphorus ( P ), nitrogen ( N ) and oxygen ( O ).


Metalloids or semi-metals have mostly non-metallic properties. One of their distinguishing characteristics is that their conductivity increases as their temperature increases. This is the opposite of what happens in metals. The metalloids include elements such as silicon ( Si ) and germanium ( Ge ). Notice where these elements are positioned in the Periodic Table.

You should now be able to take any material and determine whether it is a metal, non-metal or metalloid simply by using its properties.

Electrical conductors, semi-conductors and insulators

An electrical conductor is a substance that allows an electrical current to pass through it. Electrical conductors are usually metals. Copper is one of the best electrical conductors, and this is why it is used to make conducting wire. In reality, silver actually has an even higher electrical conductivity than copper, but because silver is so expensive, it is not practical to use it for electrical wiring because such large amounts are needed. In the overhead power lines that we see above us, aluminium is used. The aluminium usually surrounds a steel core which adds tensile strength to the metal so that it doesn't break when it is stretched across distances. Occasionally gold is used to make wire, not because it is a particularly good conductor, but because it is very resistant to surface corrosion. Corrosion is when a material starts to deteriorate at the surface because of its reactions with the surroundings, for example oxygen and water in the air.

Questions & Answers

what does nano mean?
Anassong Reply
nano basically means 10^(-9). nanometer is a unit to measure length.
do you think it's worthwhile in the long term to study the effects and possibilities of nanotechnology on viral treatment?
Damian Reply
absolutely yes
how to know photocatalytic properties of tio2 nanoparticles...what to do now
Akash Reply
it is a goid question and i want to know the answer as well
characteristics of micro business
for teaching engĺish at school how nano technology help us
Do somebody tell me a best nano engineering book for beginners?
s. Reply
what is fullerene does it is used to make bukky balls
Devang Reply
are you nano engineer ?
fullerene is a bucky ball aka Carbon 60 molecule. It was name by the architect Fuller. He design the geodesic dome. it resembles a soccer ball.
what is the actual application of fullerenes nowadays?
That is a great question Damian. best way to answer that question is to Google it. there are hundreds of applications for buck minister fullerenes, from medical to aerospace. you can also find plenty of research papers that will give you great detail on the potential applications of fullerenes.
what is the Synthesis, properties,and applications of carbon nano chemistry
Abhijith Reply
Mostly, they use nano carbon for electronics and for materials to be strengthened.
is Bucky paper clear?
so some one know about replacing silicon atom with phosphorous in semiconductors device?
s. Reply
Yeah, it is a pain to say the least. You basically have to heat the substarte up to around 1000 degrees celcius then pass phosphene gas over top of it, which is explosive and toxic by the way, under very low pressure.
Do you know which machine is used to that process?
how to fabricate graphene ink ?
for screen printed electrodes ?
What is lattice structure?
s. Reply
of graphene you mean?
or in general
in general
Graphene has a hexagonal structure
On having this app for quite a bit time, Haven't realised there's a chat room in it.
what is biological synthesis of nanoparticles
Sanket Reply
what's the easiest and fastest way to the synthesize AgNP?
Damian Reply
types of nano material
abeetha Reply
I start with an easy one. carbon nanotubes woven into a long filament like a string
many many of nanotubes
what is the k.e before it land
what is the function of carbon nanotubes?
I'm interested in nanotube
what is nanomaterials​ and their applications of sensors.
Ramkumar Reply
what is nano technology
Sravani Reply
what is system testing?
preparation of nanomaterial
Victor Reply
how did you get the value of 2000N.What calculations are needed to arrive at it
Smarajit Reply
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What makes metals better to use as wires than non-metals? (please link to bonding type)??? HELP
Yash Reply

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Source:  OpenStax, Chemistry grade 10 [caps]. OpenStax CNX. Jun 13, 2011 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11303/1.4
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