Elements are the building blocks of life on Earth. Look about you, and you’ll find them all around you. Every living organism on Earth is made up of elements such as carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen, iron, phosphorus, calcium etc. The earth itself is made up of elements. Although other planets found in the universe are also composed of elements, they lack the crucial one that sustains life- oxygen.
However, not all elements are alike. Some are solid, like iron, while some are gaseous like oxygen. Some are even liquid, like mercury. Yes, these are all common elements we find in our daily lives. If they all are elements, what is it that makes them different?
Well, all elements can be divided into metals, non-metals and metalloids. Metals and non-metals radically differ from each other in numerous ways. Both are equally important in the scheme of nature, but are as different from each other as chalk from cheese.
Iron, gold, copper, silver, tin, aluminium etc are common metals, while sulphur, phosphorus, oxygen, hydrogen, chlorine, bromine etc are non-metals.
Properties of Metals and Non-metals, and how they differ from each other-
Metals are lustrous. That means they have a metallic sheen to them. Example gold, silver, aluminium are all shiny metals. Non-metals do not have lustre, but are dull in appearance. For example sulphur, phosphorus are dull powders. Exceptions to this are graphite and iodine- two non-metals that have lustre.
Metals have a higher density and they are solids. An exception to this rule is mercury, which is a metal but in the liquid state. Non-metals have a low density and may be soft solids, liquid or gaseous.
Heat And Electricity Conduction-
Metals are good conductors of heat and electricity. Exceptions to this rule are tungsten and bismuth- two metals that are poor conductors. Non-metals are generally bad conductors of heat and electricity. There is again an exception in the form of graphite, which is a good conductor of heat and electricity.
Malleability and Ductility-
Metals are generally malleable, i.e. they can be beaten into thin sheets. That is the reason why tin is used to make sheets for covering sheds etc. and aluminium is available in the form of thin foil. They are also ductile, i.e. they can be drawn into wires- example copper wires for electricity conduction. An exception to this is Zinc, which lacks both these metallic properties Non-metals are neither ductile, nor malleable.