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Article: Metal


Properties and Form/Structure

  • Metals are shiny and lustrous when prepared or polished.
  • Sheets of metal can be opaque or transmit green light, like gold leaf.
  • Metals have the ability to lose their outer shell electrons easily.
  • Metallic bonds hold metal atoms together, with delocalized electrons.
  • The strength of metallic bonds varies among different elemental metals.
  • Metals have a wide range of densities, from lithium being the least dense to osmium being the most dense.
  • Magnesium, aluminum, and titanium are light metals of commercial importance.
  • Metals are malleable and ductile, deforming under stress without cleaving.
  • Metallic bonding contributes to the ductility of most metallic solids.
  • Metals can undergo reversible elastic deformation described by Hooke's Law.

Electrical and Thermal Conductivity

  • Metals have a range of energy states available to electrons at thermodynamic equilibrium.
  • The Fermi-Dirac distribution describes the density of available states for electrons in metals.
  • Metals are good conductors of electricity due to the mobility of electrons.
  • The delocalized electrons in metals allow for efficient thermal conductivity.
  • Metals have high electrical and thermal conductivity compared to nonmetals.

High-Pressure Behavior

  • Under high pressures, some elements and compounds that are not normally classified as metals can become metallic.
  • Iodine gradually becomes a metal at a pressure of 40 to 170 thousand times atmospheric pressure.
  • Sodium becomes a nonmetal at high pressures, but is expected to become a metal again at even higher pressures.
  • Arsenic and antimony, commonly recognized as metalloids, exhibit non-metallic and balanced metallic properties, respectively.
  • The boundaries between metals, nonmetals, and metalloids are not universally defined.

Applications and History

  • Metals comprise 25% of the Earth's crust and have various uses in modern life.
  • Metals are used in high-rise buildings, bridges, vehicles, home appliances, tools, pipes, and railroad tracks.
  • Precious metals have been historically used as coinage, and coinage metals now include at least 23 chemical elements.
  • The use of refined metals dates back to about 11,000 years ago with the use of copper.
  • Bronze appeared in the fifth millennium BCE, followed by the production of early forms of steel and the discovery of sodium.

Alloys and Metal Types

  • Alloys are substances composed of two or more elements, at least one of which is a metal.
  • Alloys modify the properties of pure metals to make them less brittle, harder, resistant to corrosion, or have desirable color and luster.
  • Iron alloys, including steel and stainless steel, make up the largest proportion of metallic alloys.
  • Aluminum, titanium, copper, and magnesium alloys are also significant.
  • Ferrous metals contain iron, including pure iron and alloys like steel.
  • Non-ferrous metals lack significant amounts of iron.

Metal Mentions

Metal Data Sources

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