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Difference between Metals and Non-Metals

A matter is a physical substance that has mass and occupies space. A matter can exist in three different forms: element, compound and mixture. An element is the purest form of matter which is basically grouped into two categories Metals and Non-metals based on their physical and chemical properties. Let us see how metals differ from non-metals!

Metals:

Metals are the natural elements which are solid, lustrous, opaque and with high density. Most of the elements are metals like alkali metals, alkaline earth metals, transition metals, lanthanides and actinides. Some examples of metals include aluminium, gold, copper, silver, etc.

Metal's Physical Properties:

  • They are lustrous (shiny surface).
  • They are good conductors of heat and electricity.
  • They have high density and high melting point.
  • They are malleable (can be hammered into sheets) and ductile (can be stretched into wires).
  • They are usually solid at room temperature except for mercury.
  • They are opaque so one cannot see through metals.
  • They are sonorous as they make a bell-like sound when hit with an object.

Metal's Chemical Properties:

  • They generally have 1 to 3 valence electrons in the outermost shell of their atoms.
  • They corrode easily so can be easily damaged by oxidation, e.g. rusting of iron.
  • They generally form metal oxides, which are basic in nature, by reacting with oxygen.
  • They tend to lose electrons easily to form positively charged ions (cations).
  • They are good reducing agents.

Non-Metals:

Non-metals are the natural elements that lack metallic properties. They are usually present in the solid, liquid or gaseous state at room temperature. All non-metals, with the exception of hydrogen, are located on the right side of the periodic table. Some examples of nonmetals include hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, sulfur, selenium, phosphorus, halogens, and noble gases.

Nonmetal's Physical Properties:

  • They are not lustrous.
  • They are poor conductors of heat and electricity.
  • They are not ductile so cannot be stretched into wires.
  • They are not malleable so cannot be beaten into sheets.
  • They are not sonorous and transparent.

Nonmetal's Chemical Properties:

  • They generally have 4 to 8 valence electrons in the outermost shell of their atoms.
  • They tend to gain valence electrons to form negatively charged ions (anions).
  • They react with oxygen to form acidic or neutral oxides.
  • They are good oxidizing agents.

Based on the above information, some of the key differences between metals and nonmetals are as follows:

Metals Nonmetals
They are the natural elements that are hard, shiny or lustrous, dense and opaque. They are the natural elements that soft, non-shiny, less dense, and transparent.
They are good conductors of heat and electricity. They are poor conductors of heat and electricity.
They are ductile in nature, i.e. they can be stretched into thin wires. They are not ductile, i.e. they cannot be stretched into wires.
They are malleable, i.e. they can be beaten into thin sheets. They are not malleable, i.e. they cannot be beaten into thin sheets.
They tend to lose electrons to form electropositive ions (cations), so they are good reducing agents. They tend to gain or share electrons to form electronegative ions (anions), so they are good oxidizing agents.
They have a crystalline structure. They have amorphic structure.
They exist in a solid state at room temperature except for mercury. They may be solids, liquid or gases at room temperature.
Metals generally have high density. Nonmetals generally have low density.
Metals are sonorous as they produce a deep, ringing sound when hit by an object. Nonmetals are non-sonorous as they do not produce a ringing sound when hit by an object.
Metals generally have high melting and boiling point except for sodium and potassium. Nonmetals generally have low melting and boiling point except for graphite.
They contain 1 to 3 valence electrons in the outermost shell of their atoms. They contain 4 to 8 valence electrons in the outermost shell of their atoms.
They react with oxygen to form metal oxides which are generally basic in nature. They react with oxygen to form acidic or neutral oxides.
Examples: Aluminium, copper, gold, silver, etc. Example: Hydrogen, helium, iodine, phosphorus, carbon.
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