Overview: What Is the Periodic Table?
The periodic table is a grouping of chemical elements arranged in families based upon their chemical properties. The most common form of the periodic table has 18 such vertical groupings, known as families, and 7 horizontal rows known as periods. There are usually two rows that are placed at the bottom, but that is for convenience.
What Are Metals?
Most elements are classified as metals. Many of them, such as gold, silver, and iron, are easily recognized as metals. They have a common luster, can be drawn into wire or hammered into sheets, such as copper wire or aluminum foil. Metals are good conductors of heat and electricity. They are usually solids at room temperature, except for mercury, which is a liquid.
What Are Nonmetals?
Nonmetals are poor conductors of heat and electricity. Many, such as hydrogen, helium, oxygen, and nitrogen, are gases at room temperature. Solid elements, such as carbon and sulfur, are brittle. A few nonmetals, such as bromine, are liquid at room temperature. Hydrogen and helium are the most common elements in the universe.
What Are Metalloids?
There are 6 elements, boron, silicon, germanium, arsenic, selenium, antimony, and tellurium, that are neither metals nor nonmetals. They share some properties of both. For example, arsenic compounds are shiny like metals, but are brittle like nonmetals. Some are semiconductors, and can be used in microelectronics as computer chips.
Are New Elements Being Discovered?
The heaviest radioactive elements are the products of radioactive decay, with progressively shorter half-lives. Some of them, such as neptunium, plutonium, americium, curium, berkelium, and californium, were first discovered in the laboratory, and then later in uranium-rich rocks in nature. Some of the heaviest elements only last minutes in the laboratory and have never been found naturally.
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