Test for Metal or Non-Metal
Date: June 2006
What tests can you do to find out whether an
element is a metal or non-metal?
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.
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
* 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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Update: June 2012