What Properties Distinguish Metals From Nonmetals?

Metals have several properties that set them apart from nonmetals, such as conductivity, malleability and ductility. They also have a distinctive physical appearance and energy state at room temperature. Metals are located primarily on the left side of the periodic table.

Metals exist as solids at room temperature, with the exception of mercury. Mercury is a liquid at room temperature. Metals are excellent conductors of both heat and electricity because of their low electronegativity. This term refers to the tendency of the atoms of any given element to gain electrons in chemical reactions. Valence, or outer, electrons of metals transfer during chemical reactions more easily than do those of nonmetals. It is more likely for metals to engage in ionic bonds rather than covalent ones.

In addition to being electrically and thermally conductive, metals are also ductile and malleable. They can be stretched into wire or molded into shapes without losing structural integrity. Two of the most electrically-conductive metals are copper and silver, which people use in wire. Metals also have high melting points and high densities, as well as a metallic luster. Each metal has a different color that appears when the metal is exposed to light. Some are more reflective than others.