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Metals and Non-metals

Physical Properties of Metals and Non-Metals

Do you know how many elements are there in our periodic table?

There are 118 elements in the modern periodic table. These elements can be broadly classified as metals and non-metals depending on their properties.

Elements that lose electrons to form compounds are called metals whereas elements that gain electrons to form compounds are called non-metals. Elements such as Si, Ge, As, Sb and Te show the characteristic properties of both metals and non-metals. They are called semi-metals or metalloids. Here, we will discuss metals and non-metals along with their physical properties in detail.


These elements are electropositive and contain less than or equal to three electrons in their valence shell. Metals such as aluminium, copper, and iron are widely used around us. Metals are used for the construction of bridges, automobiles, airplanes, ships, trains, etc. We will now discuss the physical properties of metals.

Physical properties of metals:

1. Metallic Lustre: The surface of most metals is shiny. The lustre associated with metals is known as metallic lustre. For example, iron, copper, gold, and silver are very shiny. Metals such as gold and silver are very lustrous. Therefore, they are used for making jewellery.

Silver is used for making mirrors because of its excellent shine and reflective nature.

Some metals do not look very lustrous. This is because they either lose their lustre or their lustre gets reduced when exposed to air for a long time. This happens due to the formation of a layer of oxide, carbonate, and sulphide on their surface. If a metal surface is rubbed with sand paper, then this layer gets removed and the shiny surface of the metal can be seen. The layer formed in some cases is stable and sticks on the surface of the metal, but in other cases, it is unstable and falls off (as in the case of rusting of iron).

2.  Hardness: Metals are generally hard in nature. However, this hardness varies from metal to metal. Most metals such as iron, aluminium, etc. are very hard and cannot be cut with a knife whereas some metals such as sodium and potassium are very soft and can be cut using a knife.

3. Malleability: Metals are malleable. Most metals such as iron, copper, silver, and gold can be hammered without breaking to form thin sheets. Aluminium, and silver are highly malleable metals and are often used for making foils, which are extensively used in the decoration of sweets, packing of food items, etc.

4. Ductility: Most metals are ductile, which means that they can be drawn into thin wires without breaking. For example, iron, copper, silver, and gold can be drawn into thin wires without breaking. For this reason, copper and aluminium are extensively used for making electrical wires.

Gold and silver are the most malleable and ductile metals. Hence, they are extensively used in jewellery.

5. Conduction of heat: Metals are generally good conductors of heat. This means that if one end of a metal rod is heated for some time, then the entire rod becomes hot. For example, aluminium, copper, and silver are good conductors of heat. Hence, copper and aluminium are generally used for making vessels. The following activity can be performed to explain that metals can conduct heat.

6. Conduction of electricity: Metals are good conductors of electricity i.e., they allow an electric current to pass through them easily. Silver, copper, and aluminium are the best conductors of electricity. For this reason, most electric wires are made of copper and aluminium. However, using silver for making electric wires is not cost effective. The following activity can be performed to explain that metals can conduct electricity.


Take two electric wires and attach two clips to each wire (as shown in the given figure). Then, take a bulb fitted in a holder and connect it to a battery with the help of electric wires. Now, take pieces of iron, copper, and aluminium and place them one by one between the clips.

Figure 2: Conduction of electricity in metals

It will be observed that the bulb glows every time when the metal pieces are used to connect the two clips. This shows that metals are good conductors of electricity.

7.  Melting and boiling points: Melting and boiling points of metals are usually high.

8. Physical state: All metals exist as solids at room temperature except mercury, which exists as a liquid.

9. Sonority: Metals such as iron and copper produce a sound on being struck. Hence, metals are said to be sonorous. 


Many elements in the periodic table do not behave like metals. These elements are known as non…

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