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Explain the physical properties of metals

Metals have a number of physical properties which make them useful to us in society, and which you will be familiar with from everyday experience. By considering the structure and bonding of metals which you have studied, we can explain these properties. 

Metals are strong, with high melting and boiling points

Metals have high melting and boiling points as a result of the strong electrostatic attraction between the positively charged metal ions (we call positively charged ions cations), and sea of delocalised electrons. A great deal of heat energy is required to overcome this strong electrostatic attraction, which gives metals their high melting and boiling points. 

Metals conduct electricity

The delocalised electrons in the metal are free to move throughout the entire structure. When attached to an electrical power source, this means the metal can conduct electricity.  

Metals are workable

Metals have a crystal lattice, where the cations are arranged in a regular array. This means that when a large force is applied to a metal, the particles slide over each other (keeping their regular arrangement), and stay in their new positions. 

Metals are normally easy to shape since this regular packing allows ions to slide over each other. Metals are therefore said to be malleable (easily beaten into shape), and ductile (easily pulled out into wires).  

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