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Name: Thomas
Status: student
Grade: 6-8
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: June 2006

Question:
What tests can you do to find out whether an element is a metal or non-metal?



Replies:
Metals usually conduct electricity. You could see if you could run a battery thru the metal wire. Metals also usually conduct heat better than non-metals. If you put a metal spoon in a glass of ice water, it will get cold. A non-metal spoon (say a plastic one) will not.

Steve Ross


Thomas,

Thanks for your question.

Metals are a group of elements that have similar characteristics such as:

* Luster (metals tend to be shiny compared to non-metals)

* Ductility (metals can be drawn into wires)

* The ability to conduct heat (metals conduct heat better than non-metals)

* The ability to conduct electricity (metals conduct electricity better than non-metals)

* Malleability (metals can be easily deformed by hammering or rolling)

* The ability to lose electrons and form positive ions

Metals make up about 2/3 of the periodic table of the elements. All of the above properties basically occur because metals have the ability to lose their outer (valence) electrons and create a "sea" of electrons (when many metal atoms are together).

There is really no single "test" that scientists use to classify an element as a metal. It is just a grouping that is used to describe elements that have the properties listed above.

I hope that helps!

Todd Clark, Office of Science
US Department of Energy



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