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What is a metal?

Train, tracks and cables, made from different metalsTrain, tracks and cables, made from different metalsMore than three-quarters of all elements are metals. They share many properties. Nearly all metals are solid at room temperature. Many are strong and hard, which makes them useful for building structures and machines, such as bridges and cars. They also conduct heat and electricity well. Some metals, such as sodium and calcium, are soft, while mercury is a silvery liquid at normal temperature.

Mercury, a liquid at room temperatureMercury, a liquid at room temperature

The Statue of Liberty has a copper shell.The Statue of Liberty has a copper shell.

Uses of metals

Metals such as steel (an alloy of iron) and aluminium are very strong, so they are used in construction, vehicles, rail tracks, pipes and tools. Aluminium, copper and iron are good conductors of heat, making them useful for pans. Electrical power grids often use cables (bundles of wires) made of aluminium. Electrical appliances use wires made of copper. Battery casings are made of zinc. The tiny, coiled filament inside a light bulb is made of tungsten. Silver and aluminium are used for mirrors. 

Fireworks contain powdered metals, such as magnesium, which burn very brightly. These make the fireworks flare up in bright colours.

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