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Nonmetal

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It has been suggested that Periodic table (metals and nonmetals) be merged into this article. (Discuss) Proposed since June 2013.

Nonmetals in the periodic system:

Apart from hydrogen, nonmetals are located in the p-block. Helium, although an s-block element, is normally placed above neon (in the p-block) on account of its noble gas properties.

In chemistry, a nonmetal or non-metal is a chemical element which mostly lacks metallic attributes. Physically, nonmetals tend to be highly volatile (easily vaporised), have low elasticity, and are good insulators of heat and electricity; chemically, they tend to have high ionisation energy and electronegativity values, and gain or share electrons when they react with other elements or compounds. Seventeen elements are generally classified as nonmetals; most are gases (hydrogen, helium, nitrogen, oxygen, fluorine, neon, chlorine, argon, krypton, xenon and radon); one is a liquid (bromine); and a few are solids (carbon, phosphorus, sulfur, selenium, and iodine).

Moving rightward across the standard form of periodic table, nonmetals adopt structures that have progressively fewer nearest neighbours. Polyatomic nonmetals have structures with either three nearest neighbours, as is the case (for example) with carbon (in its standard state[n 1] of graphite), or two nearest neighbours (for example) in the case of sulfur. Diatomic metals, such as hydrogen, have one nearest neighbour, and the monatomic noble gases, such as helium, have none. This gradual fall in the number of nearest neighbours is associated with a reduction in metallic character and an increase in nonmetallic character. The distinction between the three categories of nonmetals, in terms of receding metallicity is not absolute. Boundary overlaps occur as outlying elements in each category show (or begin to show) less-distinct, hybrid-like or atypical properties.

Although five times more elements are metals than nonmetals, two of the nonmetals—hydrogen and helium—make up over 99 per cent of the observable Universe,[4] and one—oxygen—makes up close to half of the Earth’s crust, oceans and atmosphere.[5] Living organisms are also composed almost entirely of nonmetals,[6] and nonmetals form many more compounds than metals.[7]

Definition and properties

The marvelous variety and infinite subtlety of the non-metallic elements, their compounds, structures and reactions, is not sufficiently acknowledged in the current teaching of chemistry.

JJ Zuckerman and FC Nachod
In Steudel’s Chemistry of the non-metals (1977, preface)

There is no rigorous definition of a nonmetal. They show more variability in their properties than do metals.[8] The following are some of the chief characteristics of nonmetals.[9] Physically, they largely exist as monatomic gases, with a few having more substantial (but still open-packed) diatomic or polyatomic forms, unlike metals which are nearly all solid and close-packed; if solid, they generally have a submetallic or dull appearance and are brittle, as opposed to metals, which are lustrous, ductile or malleable; they usually have lower densities than metals; are poor conductors of heat and electricity when compared to metals; and have significantly lower melting points and boiling points than those of metals (with the exception of carbon). Chemically, the nonmetals have relatively high ionisation energy and high electronegativity; they usually exist as anions or oxyanions in aqueous solution; generally form ionic or interstitial compounds when mixed with metals, unlike metals which form alloys; and have acidic oxides whereas the common oxides of the metals are basic.

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