Worlds of David Darling
Encyclopedia of Science
   
Home > Encyclopedia of Science

metal




  1. metal
    (CHEMISTRY) A material in which the highest occupied energy band (conduction band) is only partially filled with electrons. In terms of physical properties, metals:
    • Are good conductors of heat and electricity. The electrical conductivity of metals generally decreases with temperature
    • Are malleable and ductile in their solid state
    • Show metallic luster
    • Are opaque
    • Have high density
    • Are solids (except mercury)
    • Have crystal structure in which each atom is surrounded by eight to twelve near neighbors
    In terms of their chemical properties, metals:
    • Have one to four valence electrons
    • Have low ionization potentials; they readily lose electrons
    • Are good reducing agents
    • Have hydroxides that are bases or amphoteric
    • Are electropositive
    Metallic characteristics of the elements decrease and non-metallic characteristics increase with the increase of valence electrons. Also metallic characteristics increase with the number of electron shells. Therefore, there is no sharp dividing line between the metals and the non-metals. Of the 113 elements now known, only 17 show primarily non-metallic characteristics (see nonmetal), 7 others are metalloids, and 89 may be classed as metals.

    Most metals are found as ores; only a few, such as gold and silver, occur in a native state. Alloys are easily formed because of the nonspecific nondirectional nature of the metallic bond.



  2. Some notable metals

    Mercury is exceptional in being a liquid at room temperature. Sodium and potassium are examples of metals that are soft and chemically very reactive; they tarnish quickly in air and are most familiar as their salts. The lightest metal is lithium, which is also very reactive. The heaviest is osmium, which is 22.6 times denser than water and is one of the platinum group, relatively unreactive metals that include ruthenium, rhodium, palladium and iridium.

    Malleability and ductility are further metallic characteristics. Gold is the most malleable of all metals; it can be beaten so thin as to be virtually translucent. Some metals have very high melting points and various high-temperature applications: tungsten, with the highest melting point of all at 3,410°C (6,170°F), is employed in light bulb filaments. Aluminum, followed by iron, and the two most abundant and useful of metals. Titanium, although rarely seen as the metal, is more commonly distributed than the more familiar copper, zinc, and lead. Other metals of great economic importance, because of their radioactivity, are uranium and plutonium.


  3. (ASTRONOMY & ASTROPHYSICS) Any element heavier than hydrogen and helium. An object's metallicity is its abundance of such elements, or, often, more specifically, the abundance of iron, which is easy to measure. The terms metal-poor and metal-rich are used to indicate low metallicity and high metallicity, respectively.

Related category

   • INORGANIC CHEMISTRY