Difference between Metals and Non-Metals

Engineering materials can be classified into two broad categories namely metals and nonmetals. This classification of engineering materials is based on their physical and chemical properties. In this article, we shall discuss the differences between metals and non-metal, but before we will learn that what metals and non-metals are.

What are Metals?

Metals are the crystalline materials that have a number of differentially oriented fine crystals. At normal temperature, all metals are generally found in solid state. However, there are some exceptions such as mercury which found in liquid state at the normal temperature.

All metals have comparatively high conductivity of heat and electricity. Also, the temperature coefficient of resistance of metals is positive which means if the temperature increases, the resistance of the metal also increases. Silver, gold, copper, iron, aluminium, etc. are the examples of metals. Metals can be further classified into following two categories −

  • Ferrous Metals − The ferrous metals are those that have very high permeability. Examples of ferrous metals are steel, cast iron, wrought iron, etc.

  • Non-Ferrous Metals − Metals that have very low permeability are known as non-ferrous metals. Examples of non-ferrous metals are silver, gold, copper, etc.

What are Non-Metals?

Those engineering materials that have non-crystalline structure are termed as non-metals. Generally, non-metals present in amorphic or mesomorphic forms. At normal temperature, nonmetals found in both solid and gaseous states.

In general, non-metals are bad conductors of the heat and electricity. Therefore, these materials are widely used for insulation purpose of heat and electricity. Plastics, mica, rubber, leather, Sulphur, carbon, oxygen, etc. are examples of non-metals.

Difference between Metals and Non-Metals

Metals and non-metals both are extensively used in several engineering applications. However, they are quite different from each other. The major differences between metals and non-metals are listed in the following table −

Basis of Difference Metals Non-Metals
Structure Metals are crystalline in structure. Non-metals have amorphic or mesomorphic structure.
Malleability All metals are malleable, which means they can be beaten into thin sheets All non-metals are non-malleable.
Ductility Metals are ductile, i.e., they can be drawn into wires. Non-metals are non-ductile.
State At normal temperature, metals are generally found in solid state. At normal temperature, non-metals can present in either solid or gaseous state. The state of non-metals vary from material to material.
Density The density of metals is high. Non-metals have relatively low density.
Strength The mechanical strength of metals is high. Non-metals have comparatively low strength.
Lustrous Metals have metallic luster. Non-metals generally do not possess luster.
Hardness Metals are hard. The hardness of non-metals is comparatively less and varies material to material.
Brittleness Metals are generally non-brittle. The brittleness of non-metals is more and it varies material to material.
Valance electrons Metals have large number of free valance electrons. Valance electrons in non-metals are tightly bound with nucleus, hence they are note free to move.
Conductivity Metals are good conductors of heat and electricity. Non-metals are bad conductors of heat and electricity.
Applications Metals are used to make conducting wires, machine structures, etc. Non-metals are used as insulating materials.
Examples Silver, gold, iron, aluminium, copper, etc. Oxygen, Sulphur, carbon, etc.


In this article, we discussed major differences between metals and non-metal along with their brief description. The most significant difference between metals and non-metals is that metals are good conductors of heat and electricity, while non-metals are poor conductors of heat and electricity.

Updated on: 15-Nov-2022

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