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The periodic table of the elements with metallic elements colored in green, nonmetallic in orange and metalloids in blue.
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L.Gardiner/Windows to the Universe

Metals, Nonmetals, & Metalloids

The periodic table on the left separates elements into three groups: the metals (green in the table), nonmetals (orange), and metalloids (blue).

Most elements are metals. They are usually shiny, very dense, and only melt at high temperatures. Their shape can be easily changed into thin wires or sheets without breaking. Metals will corrode, gradually wearing away, like rusting iron. Heat and electricity travel easily through metals, which is why it is not wise to stand next to a flagpole during a thunderstorm!

Nonmetals, on the right side of the periodic table, are very different from metals. Their surface is dull and they don’t conduct heat and electricity. As compared to metals, they have low density and will melt at low temperatures. The shape of nonmetals cannot be changed easily because they are brittle and will break.

Elements that have properties of both metals and nonmetals are called metalloids. They can be shiny or dull and their shape is easily changed. Electricity and heat can travel through metalloids but not as easily as they travel through metals.


Last modified April 18, 2003 by Lisa Gardiner.

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The Fall 2010 issue of The Earth Scientist, focuses on rocks and minerals, including articles on minerals and mining, the use of minerals in society, and rare earth minerals, and includes 3 posters!

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