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Science

Metal properties

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Metal structure - Higher

We can explain the properties of metals by taking a more detailed look at their structure. Metal crystals are made up of positive metal ions surrounded by a sea of negative electrons.

showing free electrons from the outer electron shells mingled with positively charged metal ions

Atomic structure of a metal

The strong electrostatic attraction between positive ions and negative electrons means that a lot of energy is needed to separate these particles from the crystal lattice. This means that metals are strong and have high melting and boiling points.

Much less energy is needed to slide one layer of positive metal ions over another layer. This means that metals are easy to beat or press into shape.

The sea of electrons in a metal crystal is mobile. If a potential difference is applied across a piece of metal, the electrons will move, carrying an electrical current. This means that metals are good conductors of electricity.

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