Properties of Metals

In metals, atoms can achieve stable electron configurations, resembling a complete outer shell, by losing their outermost electrons.

This process occurs uniquely in metals. A metallic substance, made up of many atoms, has a ‘sea’ of delocalised electrons. These electrons are not attached to any specific atom but move freely throughout the metal’s structure. As a result, the atoms lose electrons and become positively charged, transforming into ions.

A simplified diagram illustrating metallic bonding. The image shows a two-dimensional array of red circles, each labelled with a plus sign to represent metal ions. Scattered among these ions are smaller blue circles representing a 'Sea of Free Electrons.' Two labels point to the respective parts of the structure: 'Metal IONS' and 'Sea of Free Electrons.' The arrangement symbolises the structure of a metal, where electrons are not bound to any specific atom and can move freely, which is characteristic of the metallic bond.

Similar to ionic compounds, metals are held together by electrostatic forces. These forces of attraction occur between the positively charged ions (nuclei without their outer electrons) and the negatively charged delocalised electrons.

Let’s take a closer look at a cluster of atoms in a piece of aluminium to illustrate this concept:

An illustration depicting the metallic bonding in aluminium. The diagram shows a series of red spheres labelled 'Al' for aluminium, each surrounded by concentric circles representing layers of electrons. Scattered blue dots depict delocalised electrons moving freely around the aluminium ions.

Properties of Metallic Structures

Let’s look at some properties of metallic structures:

  • Compactness: Atoms within metals are tightly packed, leading to dense structures.
  • Giant Metallic Structures: Metals are made up of large structures with atoms arranged in a regular pattern. They are made up of just metallic elements.
  • State at Room Temperature: Most metals are solid at room temperature, except mercury and gallium.
  • Metallic Bonds: The attraction between the positively charged nuclei and the negatively charged delocalised electrons results in strong metallic bonds.
  • Conductivity: The presence of free electrons that move easily through the metal cause metals to have high electrical and thermal conductivity.
  • Lustre: Metals are typically shiny.
  • Malleability: The ability of metal atoms to slide over each other allows metals to be shaped and bent without breaking.
  • Reaction with Water: Although metals do not dissolve in water, some, especially the alkali metals (found in Group 1 of the periodic table), will react with it.

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