Is magnesium a metal, nonmetal or metalloid?


Quick Answer

Magnesium is classified as an alkaline earth metal. Metals are defined as elements that can be hammered into sheets (malleable), made into a wire (ductile) and are good conductors of electricity and heat.

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Full Answer

The chemical symbol of magnesium is Mg, and it has an atomic number of 12. As a solid, the element has a shiny, gray appearance, which is one of the characteristics of elements in the metal group on the periodic table. It is highly flammable, especially when shaved or in the form of a powder. Once lit, it is difficult to extinguish as it can burn in nitrogen, carbon dioxide and water.

While magnesium only occurs naturally in combination with other elements, it remains the ninth most abundant element in the universe, the eighth most abundant in the Earth's crust and the fourth most common element in the Earth itself. Magnesium makes up 13 percent of the Earth's mass.

In humans, Magnesium ions are essential to various functions in all cells. In fact, by mass, the element is the 11th most abundant element in the human body. Magnesium ions interact with compounds like DNA, RNA and ATP. The element is also used for medicinal purposes. For example, laxatives and antacids use magnesium, and it is also used to stabilize abnormal blood vessel spasms or nerve excitation.

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