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Uses of Metals and Non-Metals

  • Last Updated : 22 Sep, 2021

We utilise a variety of well-known materials in our daily lives, including iron, aluminium, copper, gold, silver, and many more. We are also familiar with elements such as oxygen, carbon, and sulphur. All of them are derived from naturally occurring substances that contain one or more elements or compounds. Minerals are what they’re called. Ores are minerals that contain components that may be mined commercially.

What are Metals?

Metals are the elements that are a good conductor of heat and electricity. The metals situated below the periodic table are known as metals. In fact, about 80 % of the elements in the periodic table are metals. 

Metals are generally malleable, which means, that the metals can be hammered into very thin sheets without breaking. Metals also display ductility in their property, which means that they can be drawn into wires. 

Metals are characterised by a distinct property, known as the melting point. Metals display a wide variance in their melting points. The melting point of mercury is -39°C. Metals are good reflectors of light. They have a shiny appearance, whenever any fresh surface of the metal is exposed to light. Metals are lustrous in nature. The highest melting metal is tungsten (W) which possess a melting point of 3422°C.  

Uses of Metals

There are various metals that possess a large number of properties, such as:

Gold

  • Jewellery making by many civilisations.
  • Soft and easily moulded into a large number of items.
  • Used for making valuable items, such as currency and jewellery.

Magnesium

  • It has comparable strength with about 2/3rd of the weight of aluminium.
  • Used for making alloys and hybrid metals with certain properties.
  • Used for manufacturing processes.
  • Used in wheel rims, engine blocks, and transmission cases.
  • Used in the automotive industry. Preferred over aluminium, in high-strength weight reduction.

Aluminium

  • Owing to its high strength-to-weight ratio, aluminium metal is responsible for the flight.
  • Used for making freshwater boats, since, it doesn’t corrode in contact with water.
  • Used for making soda cans, because it doesn’t rust and is easily malleable.
  • Used for doing some massive accomplishments.
  • Used to BBQ fresh-caught fish to moist perfection, since it can be easily made into a really thin sheet.
  • It is the most non-ferrous (not containing iron) metal on the planet.

Mercury

  • Exists as a liquid at room temperature.
  • Used to make mercury switches.
  • Used to make federally mandated energy-efficient light bulbs.
  • It was used in thermometers until the information about its toxicity became viral.

Bronze

  • Used to make sculptures and art and guitar strings.
  • Useful in making alloys, such as bronze is combined with aluminium, nickel, zinc and manganese.
  • Used in making massive church bells, since it doesn’t get cracked or bend easily. Also, it sounds better when rung.
  • Has historical significance, for instance, Bronze Age.

Copper

  • Used to make alloys, mostly in a pure state.
  • Used to make water pipes and electronics.
  • Used to make giant statues.
  • Used to make corrosion-free statues, since it forms patina or an oxidized layer of greenish-blue colour. For instance, it is used in the Statue of Liberty.

Brass

  • Used for making bearing, since it slides well against other metals.
  • Used in making brass instruments, like tubas, trumpets and trombones.
  • Easily hammered and formed. Extremely malleable and durable.
  • Used in antique furniture, such as handles and knobs.

Steel

  • Steel is an amalgamation of iron combined with carbon.
  • There are various types of steel, namely, Carbon Steel, Alloy Steel, Stainless Steel

Iron (Wrought or Cast)

  • Used to make heavy machinery bases and frames, thus reducing vibration and providing rigidity.
  • Used to make wood stoves, since iron possesses a high melting point to handle high temperatures.
  • Used to make cookware.

Zinc

  • Due to its low melting point, the metal zinc is very easy to cast. It is easy to melt the metal into pieces and then recycle it.
  • Used to create coatings to ensure the protection of other metals. For instance, zinc is used to make galvanized steel which prevents rusting.

Titanium

  • The metal is corrosion-resistant.
  • Used for making medical implants, since titanium is biocompatible.
  • It is the 7th most abundant metal on Earth, which is very hard to refine. Also, it is very expensive.
  • Since it has a high strength to weight ratio, it is extremely valuable for the items that fly.
  • Titanium Nitride is used for making metal cutting tools since it is insanely hard and has a low-friction coating.

Tungsten

  • Used in making tungsten carbide.
  • Used to make cutting tools (for mining and metalworking), abrasives, and heavy equipment. For instance, the metal tungsten can easily cut titanium and high-temperature superalloys.
  • Also, known as heavy stone, it is about 1.7 times the density of lead.
  • It has the highest melting point and the highest tensile strength in comparison to any of the pure metals.
  • Used in making alloys.
  • Used in making rocket nozzles that have to be able to handle extreme temperatures.

Nickel

  • Used for plating and alloying.
  • Used to make 25% of the composition of the five-cent American coin.
  • Used in making stainless steel (70 %), which boosts the metal’s strength and corrosion resistance.
  • Used to coat lab and chemistry equipment, that is, a smooth and polished surface.

Cobalt

  • Used to make blue pigment in paints and dyes.
  • Used in making wear-resistant, high-strength steel alloys.

Tin

  • Highly soft and malleable.
  • Used to make alloys, like bronze (1/8th tin and 7/8ths copper).
  • Used in making pewter (85-99 %).

Lead

  • Really soft and malleable.
  • Dense and heavy.
  • Used in making bullets and paints.
  • It can cause brain damage and behavioural problems.

What are Non-Metals?

A non-metal is an element that is a poor conductor of heat and electricity. Non-metals generally possess properties opposite to those of metals. Non-metals are present in all three states of matter. Most of the non-metals are gases, such as nitrogen as well as oxygen. 

Nonmetals exist in all three states of matter. The majority are gases, such as nitrogen and oxygen. Bromine is a liquid. A few are solids, such as carbon and sulfur. In the solid state, nonmetals are brittle, meaning that they will shatter if struck with a hammer. The solids are not lustrous. Melting points are generally much lower than those of metals. The green elements in the table below are non-metals.

Uses of Non-Metals

Non-metals have a wide variety of uses, such as:

Sulphur

  • Used to make gunpowder, fireworks, and matches to facilitate ignition.
  • Used in the manufacture of rubber for tires and other materials.
  • Used as an insecticide or a fumigant.
  • Used for the preparation of sulphuric acid.

Bromine

  • Used in pharmaceuticals for the treatment of pain, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Used as a disinfectant for the treatment of water in swimming pools and hot tubs.
  • Used in the manufacture of flame-retardant materials, required in children’s clothing.
  • Used in dyes and pesticides.

Hydrogen

  • Since hydrogen is the lightest element, it can be used as a lifting agent in balloons.
  • Used as a fuel, since it is highly flammable.

Helium

  • Used in scientific research.
  • Used in balloons and lasers, since helium is chemically non-reactive and non-flammable.
  • It is a gaseous non-metal.
  • Detection using helium can be done for leaks in vessels and other high-vacuum apparatus.
  • Used in weather forecasting by meteorology department for the weather.
  • Liquid helium can be used to cool superconducting magnets for imaging studies (MRI, magnetic resonance imaging).

Noble gases 

  • Used in colourful displays for advertising purposes, like, argon, xenon.
  • Used for producing laser beams, like, neon, argon, krypton.
  • Used in filling nightclub bulbs used in theatre and nightclubs, like, krypton and neon.

Nitrogen

  • Used in industries for ammonia production, which is used in fertilizers in agricultural fields.
  • Used to manufacture ammonia and nitric acid production as a fertilizer.
  • Present in nitrates and nitrites in water and in soils. These compounds are a constituent of the nitrogen cycle.
  • A constituent of DNA and is a part of the genetic code.
  • Liquid nitrogen is used as a refrigerant for transporting foodstuff and freezing purposes.
  • Liquid nitrogen is used for the preservation of bodies and reproductive cells.
  • It makes up 78 % of the Earth’s atmosphere.
  • It is a part of all living tissues.
  • Nitric acid salts are used in making the compounds, such as potassium nitrate, ammonium nitrate, and nitric acid.
  • Nitrated organic compounds such as nitroglycerin are used as explosives.

Fluorine

  • Used in refrigeration, air conditioning & insecticide.
  • Used in toothpaste to prevent tooth decay.
  • Used to make Teflon.
  • Used to enhance rocket fuel.

Phosphorous

  • Used in crackers.
  • There exist three varieties of phosphorous: white, black, red, and violet.
  • Used in the production of fine chinaware and special glasses.
  • Used in fireworks, fertilizers, and baking powder.
  • Used in the making of steel.

Radon

  • Used in hospitals to treat tumours.
  • Used to treat diseases.

Carbon

  • Used to make sugar, proteins and glucose.
  • Diamond is a form of carbon, used in making jewellery. It is also used for industrial purposes.
  • Diamond is the hardest element.
  • Used to make carbohydrates, which is an important source of energy.
  • Amorphous carbon is used in making inks and paints.
  • Amorphous carbon is used in making batteries.
  • Graphite is used as the lead in your pencils.
  • Used in carbon dating, that is, used to measure the age of things.
  • Graphite is used in the production of steel.
  • The diamond form of carbon can be used in making jewellery.
  • Carbon-14 is used to measure the age of fossils, bones etc. It is used to estimate the life of the said organic substance. This is used to find the age and period of dinosaur bones and fossils!

Selenium 

  • Used for treating selenium deficiency.
  • Needed for proper thyroid and immune system function.

Iodine

  • Used for making antibacterial gurgles which are used for preventing throat infection.
  • Used as an antiseptic that prevents the growth of microorganisms.

Sample Questions

Question 1: Differentiate between Metals and Non-metals?

Answer:

Following are the differences between Metals and Non-metals are:

Metals 

Non-Metals

Malleable Brittle
DuctileNon-ductile
Good conductors of heat and electricity.Bad conductors of heat and electricity (Exception: Graphite).
Lustrous and can be polished.  Non-lustrous (dull) and cannot be polished (Exception: Iodine).
Solids at room temperature (Exception: Mercury).May be solid, liquid or gases at room temperature.
Strong and tough. Weak

Question 2: List an element exhibiting properties of both metals and non-metals. 

Answer:

Silicon is a material exhibiting both properties of metals and non-metals. It is a metalloid. It has an appearance like metal, which is solid and shiny. Also, it possesses a high melting point. It, however, does not conduct electricity, unlike metals. 

Question 3: Explain why Sulphur is a non-metal?

Answer:

Sulphur is a non-metal because of the following properties : 

  • Poor conductor of heat and electricity.
  • Neither malleable nor ductile.
  • Sulphur dioxide is an acidic oxide.
    • S + O2  →  SO2
    • SO2 +  H2O  → H2SO3
                                       (Sulphurous acid)

Question 4: Elaborate the usage of,

(i) Rubber and

(ii) Zinc is used to liberate hydrogen from dilute hydrochloric acid.

Answer:

(i) Since rubber is an insulator and does not allow current to flow through it, therefore, electric wires are covered with a rubber-like material.

(ii) Zinc is more reactive than hydrogen. It can easily displace the element hydrogen from dilute hydrochloric acid (HCl) and liberate it. 

Question 5: Why is magnesium considered to be metal?

Answer:

Magnesium is considered to be metal because of the following reasons: 

  • Good conductor of heat and electricity.
  • Malleable and ductile.
    • 2Mg   +   O2    →    2MgO
    • MgO   +   H2O   →    Mg(OH)2
                                               (Magnesium hydroxide)
  • Magnesium oxide is basic in nature.

Question 6. List all the differences in the chemical properties of metals and non-metals?

Answer:

Following are the differences in the chemical properties of metals and non-metals:

Metals 

Non-Metals

Form basic oxides. 

Form acidic oxides or neutral oxides.

Displace hydrogen from water (or steam).

Do not react with water.

Displace hydrogen from dilute acids.  

Do not react with dilute acids

Form ionic chlorides with chlorine.

Form covalent chlorides with chlorine.

Do not combine with hydrogen. 

Combine with hydrogen to form stable, covalent hydrides.


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