In chemistry, the term “nonmetal” refers to elements and compounds that absence a metallic character. Despite consisting of only 17 the the 118 known elements, nonmetals are several of the most important facets that are crucial for life together we know it. Instances of non-metals include carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, and also hydrogen; all of which room the basic building blocks of essential compounds.

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Compared come metals, nonmetals display a highly variable selection of properties, in regards to their atomic and chemical behavior. This is due to the fact that nonmetals differ extensively in interatomic and intermolecular bonding strengths. Most nonmetals tend to be gasses at conventional temperatures and pressure and also have short densities. All nonmetals are located to the best of the periodic table in the p-block of aspects (except hydrogen). Properties typically seen in nonmetals are:


for ionic/covalent bondsbrittle and also nonmalleablelow melting/boiling pointsHigh ionization energy and also electronegativitypoor conductors that heat and also electricity

This list of nature is neither essential nor exhaustive. Some nonmetals have every one of these properties, part have really few. Graphite, because that example, is a nonmetal compound the is a very great conductor that electricity and is supplied in electronic devices equipment. Polymers such as plastic room covalently external inspection chains of molecule that are malleable and also can it is in shaped.

Kinds the Nonmetals

Generally, nonmetals are break-up into 2 categories: reactive nonmetals and halogens. Reactive nonmetals often tend to show more variation in your physical and also chemical properties. Some, favor carbon and also sulfur, are solid in ~ room temperature and also are much less electronegative. Others, prefer oxygen, are a gas in ~ room temperature and are really electronegative. The reactive nonmetals also include the halogens—elements in team 17 of the routine tables. Every halogens have a valence covering of 7 electron so lock are exceptionally reactive and also readily form negative ions. The different reactive nonmetals are:

Hydrogen (H)Carbon (C)Nitrogen (N)Oxygen (O)Phosphorus (P)Sulfur (S)Selenium (Se)

The halogens are:

Fluorine (F)Chlorine (Cl)Bromine (B)Iodine (I)Astatine (As)

In contrast, the noble gases are characterized by your inert chemistry behavior. Noble gases have actually a full valence covering of 8 electron so lock exist in a an extremely stable electron configuration. Together such, noble gases typically do no react v other elements to kind compounds. The noble gases are:


Helium (He)Neon (Ne)Argon (Ar)Krypton (Kr)Xenon (Xe)Radon (Rn)element 118 (oganesson Og)

5 properties Of Nonmetals

1. Type Covalent/Ionic Bonds

One that the primary qualities of nonmetals is that they kind chemical compound by making covalent and also ionic bonds. In covalent bonds, two elements will re-publishing valence electrons until they have actually a complete shell. Typical everyday covalent compounds encompass carbon dioxide, ethanol (alcohol), glucose, and also carbon tetrachloride. Elements in covalent compound share electrons so the they deserve to each achieve a secure electron configuration. Covalent compounds often tend to display the most variation in their molecular geometry. Covalent compounds will certainly take on a form that minimizes the amount of electrostatic repulsion between electron pairs. Covalent bond normally form between 2 nonmetals.

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Covalent binding in methane. Credit: DynaBlast via WikiCommons CC BY-SA 2.5

In contrast, ionic bonds tend to kind between nonmetals and metals. In ionic bonds, one element takes electrons from one more which create a cation and also an anion. Oppositely fee ions attract each other and clump with each other to form ionic compounds. Common ionic compounds encompass table salt, carbonate, sulfate, and potassium chloride. Ionic bonds tend to type between elements that differ significantly in electronegativities (ΔEN > 2.0). Many ionic compound arrange themselves into a routine structure of ions recognized as a lattice.

2. Brittle

Most compounds covalent and also ionic compound made the end of nonmetals tend to it is in brittle and also will break if a huge enough force is applied. Unlike metals, nonmetal compounds are not malleable and also ductile. Many nonmetal compounds can not be deformed past a certain point without breaking and also will shed their strength when molded.

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Sulfur is brittle and also cracks easily. Credit: WikiCommons CC0 1.0

Nonmetal compounds have tendency to be brittle on account of the nature of your ionic and also covalent bonds. Both ionic and also covalent binding involve the sharing/capture the electrons. Both type of link arrange themselves in such a way as to minimization electrostatic repulsions. For example, in an ionic compound, confident and negative atoms room locked into place in a chop crystal framework with positive ions aligned to an unfavorable ions. Using a pressure can shift the alignment of ion so the positives align through positives and also negatives v negatives. The repulsion causes the link to fracture.

Likewise, covalent bonds call for electrons and atoms come be i ordered it in a particular way. The applications of a mechanical force disturbs that setup causing the link to fracture. In contrast, metallic bonds have the right to move and slide previous each other due to their delocalized electron bonds. This is why steels are ductile and malleable, castle can readjust their atomic framework without breaking their chemical bonds.


3. Short Melting/Boiling Points

It is no true the all nonmetal compounds have low melting points and also boiling points. Salt, for instance, has actually a melting suggest of 801 °C i m sorry is really high. However, compared to metals, nonmetal compounds do have fairly low melting.boiling points. Low melting and boiling points explain why the bulk of nonmetals are gaseous at room temperature.

Nonmetal compounds, specifically covalent compounds, have low melting and also boiling points due to the fact that of their reasonably weak intermolecular interactions. The phase actions of a substance is established by the stamin of that intermolecular bonds. Steels have an extremely high melting and boiling points due to the fact that they have very solid intermolecular attractions. Covalent compounds, top top the other hand, execute not have strong intermolecular attractions. This is because most covalent molecules space electrically neutral and also so don’t tempt their neighbors, in ~ least, not to the level that steels do.

Ionic compounds have higher melting/boiling points than covalent compounds, yet still less than those of metals. Heating an ionic compound rises the kinetic power of the particles. Past a certain threshold, kinetic energy overcomes electrostatic attraction and the lattice structure comes apart. In contrast, steels have really high melting/boiling points because their atoms can transition places there is no breaking chemistry bonds.

4. High Ionization Energy/Electronegativity

Nonmetals have tendency to have actually high ionization energies. This method that the is difficult to remove electrons from nonmetal atoms. Nonmetals have actually high ionization energies because of how huge their nuclei are compared to how complete their electron shells are. The large, positively charged nuclei that atoms favor oxygen and fluorine entice their electrons an extremely strongly, do them complicated to remove.

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Ionization energy increases as you go to the right of the regular table. Credit: Adrignola via WikiCommons CC through 1.0

The same reason defines why nonmetals additionally tend come be an ext electronegative 보다 metals. The positively charged nuclei that nonmetals exert a solid pull ~ above electrons, strong enough to periodically remove them from bordering atoms. In general, the additional left one goes on the periodic table, the higher ionization energies and electronegativities get.

5. Negative Conductors of Heat and also Electricity

Nonmetals also tend to be fairly poor conductors of heat and also electricity, though part exceptions exist. The reason why nonmetals are negative conductors is regarded the factor why steels are comparatively good conductors. Metals conduct warmth well because they deserve to absorb a most kinetic power without breaking your bonds. Nonmetals, in contrast, require a fixed plan of atoms to continue to be stable, so too much kinetic power will conquer their bonds. Steels are good conductors of electricity since they have plenty of open orbitals the electrons have the right to move through. Nonmetals have tendency to have full orbitals, for this reason electrons perform not have any kind of place to go when presented to a voltage.

The Curious instance of Hydrogen: steel Or Nonmetal?

Generally, the very very first element hydrogen is classified together a nonmetal. However, hydrogen has actually a an extremely unique mix that properties that make it hard to classify together a metal or nonmetal. For instance, hydrogen engages in covalent bonds and exists naturally as a gas, choose a nonmetal. However, hydrogen likewise readily shed its single electron to form positively charged ions, a property mostly seen in metals. Hydrogen’s distinct mix of properties is a result of its very basic atomic structure.

In 1935, physicists Eugene Wigner and also Hillard Huntington predicted the at exceptionally high temperatures and also pressures, hydrogen would condense right into a metallic fluid or solid. This exotic step of hydrogen is predicted come behave like a metal and be a very an excellent conductor the heat and electricity. Together of now, hydrogen has actually only been observed come exist in its gaseous state, despite it is thought that liquid metallic hydrogen may exist in the cores that gas huge planets choose Jupiter or Saturn. A dense core of liquid metallic hydrogen would describe the extremely an effective magnetic fields of gas giants that room at odds with classical predictions.

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To amount up, a nonmetal is a chemical the is characterized by a lack of metallic properties. Nonmetals are commonly gaseous or fluid at room temperature and also are divided between the reactive nonmetals and also noble gases. Nonmetals communicate in covalent bonds, form brittle delicate compounds, have low melting/boiling points, have high ionization energies and also electronegativity, and also are poor conductors the electricity. Nonmetals are much more chemically variable than metals due to their relatively wide variety of atom nuclei sizes and also electron configurations. Every nonmetals are located in the p-block of the regular table.


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