Nonmetals Photo Gallery and Facts

The Colorful Part of the Periodic Table

The nonmetals are located on the upper right side of the periodic table. Nonmetals are separated from metals by a line that cuts diagonally through the region of the periodic table containing elements with partially filled p orbitals. Technically the halogens and noble gases are nonmetals, but the nonmetal element group usually is considered to consist of hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, sulfur, and selenium.

Nonmetal Properties

Nonmetals have high ionization energies and electronegativities. They are generally poor conductors of heat and electricity. Solid nonmetals are generally brittle, with little or no metallic luster. Most nonmetals have the ability to gain electrons easily. Nonmetals display a wide range of chemical properties and reactivities.

Summary of Common Properties

The properties of the nonmetals are the opposite of the properties of metals. Nonmetals (except for noble gases) readily form compounds with metals.

  • High ionization energies
  • High electronegativities
  • Poor thermal conductors
  • Poor electrical conductors
  • Brittle solids
  • Little or no metallic luster
  • Gain electrons easily

Hydrogen

NGC 604, a region of ionized hydrogen in the Triangulum Galaxy.
Photos of the Nonmetals NGC 604, a region of ionized hydrogen in the Triangulum Galaxy. Hubble Space Telescope, photo PR96-27B

The first nonmetal on the periodic table is hydrogen, which is atomic number 1. Unlike the other nonmetals, it is located on the left side of the periodic table with the alkali metals. This is because hydrogen usually has an oxidation state of +1. However, at ordinary temperatures and pressures, hydrogen is a gas rather than a solid metal.

Hydrogen Glow

This is a vial containing ultrapure hydrogen gas.
Photos of the Nonmetals This is a vial containing ultrapure hydrogen gas. Hydrogen is a colorless gas that glows violet when ionized. Wikipedia Creative Commons License

Normally, hydrogen is a colorless gas. When it is ionized, it releases a colorful glow. Most of the universe consists of hydrogen, so gas clouds often display the glow.

Graphite Carbon

Photograph of graphite, one of the forms of elemental carbon.
Photos of the Nonmetals Photograph of graphite, one of the forms of elemental carbon. U.S. Geological Survey

Carbon is a nonmetal that occurs in various forms or allotropes in nature. It is encountered as graphite, diamond, fullerene, and amorphous carbon.

Fullerene Crystals - Carbon Crystals

These are fullerene crystals of carbon. Each crystal unit consists of 60 carbon atoms.
Photos of the Nonmetals These are fullerene crystals of carbon. Each crystal unit consists of 60 carbon atoms. Moebius1, Wikipedia Commons

Although it is classed as a nonmetal, there are valid reasons for categorizing carbon as a metalloid rather than a nonmetal. Under some conditions, it appears metallic and is a better conductor than the typical nonmetal.

Diamond - Carbon

This is an AGS ideal cut diamond from Russia (Sergio Fleuri).
Photos of the Nonmetals This is an AGS ideal cut diamond from Russia (Sergio Fleuri). Diamond is one of the forms taken by pure carbon. Salexmccoy, Wikipedia Commons

Diamond is the name given to crystalline carbon. Pure diamond is colorless, has a high refractive index, and is very hard.

Liquid Nitrogen

This is a photo of liquid nitrogen being poured from a dewar.
Photos of the Nonmetals This is a photo of liquid nitrogen being poured from a dewar. Cory Doctorow

Under ordinary conditions, nitrogen is a colorless gas. When cooled, it becomes a colorless liquid and solid.

Nitrogen Glow

This is the glow given off by ionized nitrogen in a gas discharge tube.
Photos of the Nonmetals This is the glow given off by ionized nitrogen in a gas discharge tube. The purplish glow seen around lightning strikes is the color of the ionized nitrogen in air. Jurii, Creative Commons

Nitrogen displays a purple-pink glow when ionized.

Nitrogen

Image of solid, liquid, and gaseous nitrogen.
Photos of the Nonmetals Image of solid, liquid, and gaseous nitrogen. chemdude1, YouTube.com

Liquid Oxygen

Liquid oxygen is blue.
Photos of the Nonmetals Liquid oxygen in an unsilvered dewar flask. Liquid oxygen is blue. Warwick Hillier, Australia National University, Canberra

While nitrogen is colorless, oxygen is blue. The color isn't apparent when oxygen is a gas in air, but it becomes visible in liquid and solid oxygen.

Oxygen Glow

This photo shows the emission of oxygen in a gas discharge tube.
Photos of the Nonmetals This photo shows the emission of oxygen in a gas discharge tube. Alchemist-hp, Creative Commons License

Ionized oxygen also produces a colorful glow.

Phosphorus Allotropes

Pure phosphorus exists in several forms called allotropes.
Photos of the Nonmetals Pure phosphorus exists in several forms called allotropes. This photo shows waxy white phosphorus (yellow cut), red phosphorus, violet phosphorus and black phosphorus. The allotropes of phosphorus have markedly different properties from each other. BXXXD, Tomihahndorf, Maksim, Materialscientist (Free Documentation License)

Phosphorus is another colorful nonmetal. Its allotropes include a red, white, violet, and black form. The different forms also display different properties, in much the same way diamond is very different from graphite. Phosphorus is an essential element for human life, but white phosphorus is highly toxic.

Sulfur

Elemental sulfur melts from a yellow solid into a blood-red liquid. It burns with a blue flame.
Photos of the Nonmetals Elemental sulfur melts from a yellow solid into a blood-red liquid. It burns with a blue flame. Johannes Hemmerlein

Many of the nonmetals display different colors as allotropes. Sulfur changes colors when it changes its state of matter. The solid is yellow, while the liquid is blood red. Sulfur burns with a bright blue flame.

Sulfur Crystals

Crystals of the nonmetallic element sulfur.
Photos of the Nonmetals Crystals of the nonmetallic element sulfur. Smithsonian Institution

Sulfur Crystals

Sulfur Crystals
Photos of the Nonmetals These are crystals of sulfur, one of the nonmetallic elements. U.S. Geological Survey

Selenium

Selenium occurs in several forms, but is most stable as a dense gray semiconducting semimetal.
Photos of the Nonmetals Selenium occurs in several forms, but is most stable as a dense gray semiconducting semimetal. Black, gray, and red selenium are shown here. wikipedia.org

Black, red, and gray selenium are three of the most common of the element's allotropes. Like carbon, selenium could easily be classified as a metalloid rather than a nonmetal.

Selenium

This is a wafer of ultrapure amorphous selenium.
Photos of the Nonmetals This is a 2-cm wafer of ultrapure selenium, with a mass of 3-4 g. This is the vitreous form of amorphous selenium, which is black. Wikipedia Creative Commons

The Halogens

Liquid bromine
Bromine is a deeply colored liquid nonmetallic element.

 Lester V. Bergman / Getty Images

The second-to-last column of the periodic table consists of the halogens, which are nonmetals. Near the top of the periodic table, the halogens normally exist as gases. As you move down the table, they become liquids at room temperature. Bromine is an example of a halogen that is one of the few liquid elements.

The Noble Gases

Ionized noble gases
The noble gases glow in colors when ionized.

 nemoris / Getty Images

Metallic character decreases as you move from left to right across the periodic table. So, the least metallic elements are the noble gases even though some people forget they are a subset of the nonmetals. The noble gases are the group of nonmetals found on the righthand side of the periodic table. As their name suggests, these elements are gases at room temperature and pressure. However, it's possible element 118 (oganesson) might be a liquid or solid. The gases generally appear colorless at ordinary pressures, but they display vivid colors when ionized. Argon appears as a colorless liquid and solid, but displays bright luminescence shading from yellow to orange to red as it is cooled.