What Are Nonmetals?

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What is a nonmetal?

A nonmetal differs from a metal in that they are poor conductors of heat and electricity. Many are gases, though there is a liquid (bromine) and several solids (carbon, phosphorus, sulfur, selenium, and iodine). All solid nonmetals are brittle and fracture easily. Nonmetals usually have 4-8 valence electrons and gain or share them easily. There are two commonly known groups of nonmetals: halogens and noble gases.

Elements

  • Hydrogen
  • Helium
  • Carbon
  • Nitrogen
  • Oxygen
  • Fluorine
  • Neon
  • Phosphorus
  • Sulfur
  • Chlorine
  • Argon
  • Selenium
  • Bromine
  • Krypton
  • Iodine
  • Xenon
  • Astatine
  • Radon
  • Oganesson
  • Tennessine (possibly)

Halogens

These elements are highly reactive and electronegative. Electronegativity defines how much and element attracts electrons. Since halogens only need one more electron to complete their valence shell (thus becoming stable), they are the most willing to accept an electron. Fluorine is the most electronegative element and will explode when in contact with hydrogen or water (do not get fluorine confused with fluoride).

Elements

  • Fluorine
  • Chlorine
  • Bromine
  • Iodine
  • Astatine
  • Tennessine

Noble gases

Noble gases have filled valence shells, so they aren’t looking to gain or lose any electrons: they’re already stable! This is why they are so nonreactive and form few compounds.

Most will see neon listed and think the noble gases are used in neon signs. Well, they’re right! Though we call them “neon” signs, the signs use several gases, including neon, helium, argon, and krypton. Neon and argon are just the most common, with neon being the brightest. There are phosphors coated on the inside of the tubes which produce different colors when they are illuminated. There is an electrode attached to each end of the tube. When turned on, the electricity generates a current that excites the gases in the tube, causing the phosphors to illuminate. For more on neon signs, visit this link.

Elements

  • Helium
  • Neon
  • Argon
  • Krypton
  • Xenon
  • Radon
  • Oganesson

Could this be a glimpse into a neon future? Artist’s page link in this description.


Resources: Visit this Hyperphysics page to compare metals and nonmetals, and visit this S-Cool page for some extra details.

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