Metallic Bonding and Properties of Metals

Metals form a giant lattice structure, which is arranged in regular layers of positive metal ions and a sea of delocalised electrons.

Giant lattice structure of a metal, with tiny electrons embedded within layers of positive metal ions.

In metals, the outer electrons are not attached to any individual metal atom. This is why they are referred to as ‘delocalised’, meaning they are free to move throughout the lattice.

Despite having positive metal ions and negative electrons, metals do not form ionic bonds. Instead, they form metallic bonds, which arise from the electrostatic force of attraction between the positive metal ions and the negative delocalised electrons. This bond holds the metal atoms together.

Properties of Metals

  • Metals are malleable, meaning they can easily be shaped. This is due to the ability of the metal’s layers of atoms to slide over each other. This allows metals to be bent and hammered into various shapes.
  • Metallic bonds are very strong, so it takes a large amount of energy to break these bonds. As a result, metals have high melting and boiling points. All metals are solid at room temperature, except mercury, which is a liquid.
  • Delocalised electrons in metals can move freely, carrying electric charge and thermal energy. Therefore, metals are great conductors of electricity and heat.
  • Most metals do not dissolve in water. However, certain metals react with water, producing metal hydroxides and hydrogen gas.