An Introduction to Chemical Science

Author: Rufus Phillips Williams

Chapter XLIII. Metals and Their Alloys.

222. Comparison of Metals and Non-Metals.—The majority of elements are metals, only about a dozen being non-metallic in their properties. The division line between the two classes is not very well defined; e.g. As has certain properties which ally it to metals; it has other properties which are non-metallic. H occupies a place between the two classes. The following are the more marked characteristics of each group: -


1. Metals are solid at ordinary temperatures, and usually of high specific gravity.

Exceptions: Hg is liquid above -39.5 degees; Li is the lightest solid known; Na and K will float on water.

2. Metals reflect light in a way peculiar to themselves. They have what is called a metallic luster.

3. They are white or gray. Exceptions: Au, Ca, Sr are yellow; Cu is red.

4. In general they conduct heat and electricity well.

NON-METALS. 1. Non-metals are either gaseous or solid at ordinary temperatures, and of low specific gravity. Exceptions: Br is a liquid; I has the heaviest known vapor.

2. Non-metallic solids have different lusters, as glassy, resinoussilky, etc. Exceptions: I, B, and C have metallic luster.

3. Non-metals have no characteristic color.

4. They are non-conductors of heat and electricity. Exceptions: C and some others are conductors. 5. They are usually malleable and ductile.

6. They form alloys, or "chemical mixtures," with one another, similar to other solutions. Exceptions: Some, as Ph and Zn, will not alloy with one another.

7. Metals are electro-positive elements, and unite with O and H to form bases. Exceptions: Some of the less electro-positive metals, with a large quantity of O, form acids, as Cr, As, etc.

Numbers 2, 6, and 7 are the most characteristic and important properties.

5. They are deficient in malleability and ductility.

6. They often form liquid solutions, similar to alloys in metals.

7. Non-metals are electronegative, and with H, or with H and O, form acids.

Examine brass, bronze, bell-metal, pewter, German silver, solder, type-metal.

223. Alloys.-An alloy is not usually a definite chemical compound, but rather a mixture of two or more metals which are melted together. One metal may be said to dissolve in the other, as sugar dissolves in water. The alloy has, however, different properties from those of its elements. For example, plumber’s solder melts at a lower temperature than either Ph or Sn, of which it is composed. Some metals can alloy in any proportions. Solder may have two parts of Sn to one of Pb, two of Pb to one of Sn, or equal parts of each, or the two elements may alloy in other proportions. Not all metals can be thus fused together indefinitely; e.g., Zn and Pb. Nickel and silver coins are alloyed with Cu, gold coins with Cu and Ag.

Gun-metal, bell-metal, and speculum-metal are each alloys of Cu and Sn. Speculum-metal, used for reflectors in telescopes, has relatively more Sn than either of the others; gun-metal has the least. An alloy of Sb and Pb is employed for type-metal as it expands at the instant of solidification. Pewter is composed of Sn and Pb; brass, of Cu and Zn; German silver, of brass and Ni; bronze, of Cu, Sn, and Zn; aluminium bronze, of Cu and Al.

224. Low Fusibility is a feature of many alloys. Wood’s metal, composed of Pb eight parts, Bi fifteen, Sn four, Cd three, melts at just above 60 degrees, or far below the boiling-point of water. By varying the proportions, different fusing-points are obtained. This principle is applied in automatic fire alarms, and in safety plugs for boilers and fire extinguishers. Water pipes extend along the ceiling of a building and are fitted with plugs of some fusible alloy, at short distances apart. When, in case of fire, the heat becomes sufficiently intense, these plugs melt and the water flows out.

225. Amalgams.—An amalgam is an alloy of Hg and another metal. Mirrors are "silvered" with an amalgam of Sn. Tin-foil is spread on a smooth surface and covered with Hg, and the glass is pressed thereon.

Various amalgams are employed for filling teeth, a common one being composed of Hg, Ag, and Sn. Au or Ag, with Hg, forms an amalgam used for plating. Articles of gold and silver should never be brought in contact with Hg. If a thin amalgam cover the surface of a gold ring or coin, Hg can be removed with HNO3, as Au is not attacked by it. Would this acid do in case of silver amalgam? Heat will also quickly cause Hg to evaporate from Au.


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Chicago: Rufus Phillips Williams, "Chapter XLIII. Metals and Their Alloys.," An Introduction to Chemical Science, ed. Bryant Conant, James in An Introduction to Chemical Science Original Sources, accessed February 23, 2024,

MLA: Williams, Rufus Phillips. "Chapter XLIII. Metals and Their Alloys." An Introduction to Chemical Science, edited by Bryant Conant, James, in An Introduction to Chemical Science, Original Sources. 23 Feb. 2024.

Harvard: Williams, RP, 'Chapter XLIII. Metals and Their Alloys.' in An Introduction to Chemical Science, ed. . cited in , An Introduction to Chemical Science. Original Sources, retrieved 23 February 2024, from