Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory Office of Science NEWTON's Homepage NEWTON's Homepage
NEWTON, Ask A Scientist!
NEWTON Home Page NEWTON Teachers Visit Our Archives Ask A Question How To Ask A Question Question of the Week Our Expert Scientists Volunteer at NEWTON! Frequently Asked Questions Referencing NEWTON About NEWTON About Ask A Scientist Education At Argonne Test for Metal or Non-Metal
Name: Thomas
Status: student
Grade: 6-8
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
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.

Steve Ross


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

Click here to return to the Chemistry Archives

NEWTON is an electronic community for Science, Math, and Computer Science K-12 Educators, sponsored and operated by Argonne National Laboratory's Educational Programs, Andrew Skipor, Ph.D., Head of Educational Programs.

For assistance with NEWTON contact a System Operator (, or at Argonne's Educational Programs

Educational Programs
Building 360
9700 S. Cass Ave.
Argonne, Illinois
60439-4845, USA
Update: June 2012
Weclome To Newton

Argonne National Laboratory