nonmetal, chemical element possessing certain properties by which it is distinguished from a metal. In general, this distinction is drawn on the basis that a nonmetal tends to accept electrons and form negative ions and that its oxide is acidic. Nonmetals are poor conductors of heat and electricity (see conduction) and do not have the luster of metals. Arsenic, antimony, selenium, and tellurium exhibit both nonmetallic and metallic properties and are called metalloids. Unlike the metals, which are all solids (with the exception of mercury) under ordinary conditions of temperature and pressure, the nonmetals appear in all three states. Argon, chlorine, fluorine, helium, hydrogen, krypton, neon, nitrogen, oxygen, and xenon are normally gases. Bromine is a liquid. Boron, carbon, iodine, phosphorus, silicon, and sulfur are solids. Certain of them, e.g., boron, carbon, iodine, silicon, and sulfur, form crystals, as do the metals. In hardness they vary considerably. Carbon in its allotropic form, the diamond, is the hardest element known. With the exception of carbon, sulfur, nitrogen, oxygen, and the inert gases—argon, helium, krypton, neon, and xenon—the nonmetals do not occur uncombined in nature, but exist in numerous relatively abundant compounds, among which are the oxides, halides (binary halogen compounds), sulfides, carbonates, nitrates, phosphates, silicates, and sulfates. With a few exceptions, the nonmetallic elements are important chiefly for their compounds. For the properties and uses of specific nonmetals, see the separate articles on these elements.
Nonmetal is a term used in chemistry when classifying the chemical elements. On the basis of their general physical and chemical properties, every element in the periodic table can be termed either a metal or a non-metal. (A few elements with intermediate properties are referred to as metalloids.)

The elements generally regarded as nonmetals are:

There is no rigorous definition for the term "nonmetal" - it covers a general spectrum of behaviour. Common properties considered characteristic of a nonmetal include:

Only eighteen elements in the periodic table are generally considered nonmetals, compared to over eighty metals, but nonmetals make up most of the crust, atmosphere and oceans of the earth. Bulk tissues of living organisms are composed almost entirely of nonmetals. Most nonmetals form monatomic or diatomic molecules in their elemental state, unlike metals which (in their elemental state) do not form molecules at all.

Metallisation at huge pressures

Nevertheless, even these 20 elements tend to become metallic at large enough pressures (see nearby periodic table at ~300 GPa).

See also

Search another word or see Nonmetalon Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2014, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature