10 Facts to Know About Metals

Part of Everything From Tiny Wires to Mammoth Skyscrapers

A mass of aluminum, the most abundant element in the Earth's crust
The most abundant metal in the Earth's crust is aluminum.

Jurii/Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported

Most of the elements in the periodic table are metals, plus there are numerous alloys made from mixtures of metals. So, it's a good idea to know what metals are and a few things about them. Here are several interesting and useful facts about these important materials:

  1. The word metal comes from the Greek word 'metallon,' which means quarry or to mine or excavate.
  2. The most abundant metal in the universe is iron, followed by magnesium.
  3. The composition of the Earth is not entirely known, but the most abundant metal in the Earth's crust is aluminum. However, the Earth's core likely consists mainly of iron.
  4. Metals are primarily shiny, hard solids that are good conductors of heat and electricity. There are exceptions. For example, gold is very soft and mercury is a liquid. However, there are no metals that act as insulators rather than conductors.
  5. About 75% of the chemical elements are metals. Of the 118 known elements, 91 are metals. Many of the others possess some of the characteristics of metals and are known as semimetals or metalloids.
  6. Metals form positively charged ions called cations through loss of electrons. They react with most other elements, but especially nonmetals, such as oxygen and nitrogen.
  7. The most commonly used metals are iron, aluminum, copper, zinc, and lead. Metals are used for an enormous number of products and purposes. They are valued for their ability to strength, electrical and thermal properties, ease of bending and drawing into wire, wide availability, and participation in chemical reactions.
  8. Although new metals are being produced and some metals were difficult to isolate in pure form, there were seven metals known to ancient man. These were gold, copper, silver, mercury, lead, tin, and iron.
  9. The tallest free-standing structures in the world are made of metals, primarily the alloy steel. They include the Dubai skyscraper Burj Kalifa, the Tokyo television tower Skytree, and the Shanghai Tower skyscraper.
  10. The only metal that is a liquid at ordinary room temperature and pressure is mercury. However, other metals melt close to room temperature. For example, you can melt the metal gallium in the palm of your hand,
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Your Citation
Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "10 Facts to Know About Metals." ThoughtCo, Aug. 25, 2020, thoughtco.com/facts-about-metals-608457. Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. (2020, August 25). 10 Facts to Know About Metals. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/facts-about-metals-608457 Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "10 Facts to Know About Metals." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/facts-about-metals-608457 (accessed June 1, 2023).