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Encyclopedia > Metals
For alternative meanings see metal (disambiguation).

In chemistry, a metal (Greek: Metallon) is an element that readily forms cations and has metallic bonds, and it is sometimes said that it is similar to a cation in a cloud of electrons. The metals are one of the three groups of elements as distinguished by their ionization and bonding properties, along with the metalloids and nonmetals. On the periodic table, a diagonal line drawn from boron (B) to polonium (Po) separates the metals from the nonmetals. Elements on this line are metalloids, sometimes called semi-metals; elements to the lower left are metals; elements to the upper right are nonmetals.

Nonmetals are more abundant in nature than are metals, but metals in fact constitute most of the periodic table. Some well-known metals are aluminium, copper, gold, iron, lead, silver, titanium, uranium, and zinc.

The allotropes of metals tend to be lustrous, ductile, malleable, and good conductors, while nonmetals generally speaking are brittle (for solid nonmetals), lack luster, and are insulators.

Physical properties

Metals have certain characteristic physical properties: they are usually shiny (they have "lustre"), have a high density, are ductile and malleable, usually have a high melting point, are usually hard, and conduct electricity and heat well. These properties are mainly because each atom exerts only a loose hold on its outermost electrons (valence electrons); thus, the valence electrons form a sort of sea around the metal ions. Most metals are chemically stable, with the notable exception of the alkali metals and alkaline earth metals, found in the leftmost two groups of the periodic table.


An alloy is a mixture with metallic properties that contains at least one metal element. Examples of alloys are steel (iron and carbon), brass (copper and zinc), bronze (copper and tin), and duralumin (aluminium and copper). Alloys specially designed for highly demanding applications, such as jet engines, may contain more than ten elements.

Metal oxides

The oxides of metals are basic; those of nonmetals are acidic.

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Metals are sometimes described as a lattice of positive ions (cations) surrounded by a cloud of delocalized electrons.
The metals are one of the three groups of elements as distinguished by their ionisation and bonding properties, along with the metalloids and nonmetals.
Some metals form a barrier layer of oxide on their surface which cannot be penetrated by further oxygen molecules and thus retain their shiny appearance and good conductivity for many decades (like aluminium, some steels, and titanium).
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