METALS - Some Representative Groups and Families - REVIEW OF MAJOR TOPICS - SAT Subject Test Chemistry

SAT Subject Test Chemistry




Some Representative Groups and Families


Properties of Metals

Some physical properties of metals are: they have metallic luster, they can conduct heat and electricity, they can be pounded into sheets (are malleable), they can be drawn into wires (are ductile), most have a silvery color, and none is soluble in any ordinary solvent without a chemical change.

The general chemical properties of metals are: they are electropositive, and the more active metallic oxides form bases, although some metals form amphoteric hydroxides that can react as both acids and bases.

Some Important Reduction Methods of Iron Ore

Iron ore is refined by reduction in a blast furnace, that is, a large, cylinder-shaped furnace charged with iron ore (usually hematite, Fe2O3), limestone, and coke. A hot air blast, often enriched with oxygen, is blown into the lower part of the furnace through a series of pipes called tuyeres. The chemical reactions that occur can be summarized as follows:

Burning coke:  2C + O2 → 2CO(g)

C + O2 → CO2(g)

Reduction of CO2: CO2 + C → 2CO(g)

Reduction of ore: Fe2O3 + 3CO → 2Fe + 3CO2(g)

Fe2O3 + 3C → 2Fe + 3CO(g)

Formation of slag: CaCO3 → CaO + CO2(g)

CaO + SiO2 → CaSiO3

The molten iron from the blast furnace is called pig iron.

From pig iron, the molten metal may undergo one of three steel-making processes that burn out impurities and set the contents of carbon, manganese, sulfur, phosphorus, and silicon. Often nickel and chromium are alloyed in steel to give the particular properties of hardness needed for tool parts. The three most important means of making steel involve the basic oxygen, the open-hearth, and the electric furnaces. The first two methods are the most common.

The basic oxygen furnace uses a lined “pot” into which the molten pig iron is poured. Then a high-speed jet of oxygen is blown from a water-cooled lance into the top of the pot. This “burns out” impurities to make a batch of steel rapidly and cheaply.

The open-hearth furnace is a large oven containing a dish-shaped area to hold the molten iron, scrap steel, and other additives with which it is charged. Alternating blasts of flame are directed across the surface of the melted metal until the proper proportions of additives are established for that “heat” so that the steel will have the particular properties needed by the customer. The tapping of one of these furnaces holding 50 to 400 tons of steel is a truly beautiful sight.

The final method of making steel involves the electric arc furnace. This method uses enormous amounts of electricity through graphite cathodes that are lowered into the molten iron to purify it and produce a high grade of steel.


An alloy is a mixture of two or more metals. In a mixture certain properties of the metals involved are affected. Three of these are:

1. Melting point

The melting point of an alloy is lower than that of its components.

2. Hardness

An alloy is usually harder than the metals that compose it.

3. Crystal structure

The size of the crystalline particles in the alloy determines many of the physical properties. The size of these particles can be controlled by heat treatment. If the alloy cools slowly, the crystalline particles tend to be larger. Thus, by heating and cooling an alloy, its properties can be altered considerably.

Common alloys are:

1. Brass, which is made up of copper and zinc.

2. Bronze, which is made up of copper and tin.

3. Steel, which has controlled amounts of carbon, manganese, sulfur, phosphorus, and silicon, is alloyed with nickel and chromium.

4. Sterling silver, which is alloyed with copper.


In the preceding sections, representative metals and nonmetals have been reviewed, along with the properties of each. Some elements, however, are difficult to classify as one or the other. One example is carbon. The diamond form of carbon is a poor conductor, yet the graphite form conducts fairly well. Neither form looks metallic, so carbon is classified as a nonmetal.

Silicon looks like a metal. However, its conductivity properties are closer to those of carbon.

Since some elements are neither distinctly metallic nor clearly nonmetallic, a third class, called the metalloids, is recognized.

The properties of metalloids are intermediate between those of metals and those of nonmetals. Although most metals form ionic compounds, metalloids as a group may form ionic or covalent bonds. Under certain conditions pure metalloids conduct electricity, but do so poorly, and are thus termed semiconductors. This property makes the metalloids important in microcircuitry.

The metalloids are located in the periodic table along the heavy dark line that starts alongside boron and drops down in steplike fashion between the elements found lower in the table (see Figure 40).

Figure 40. Location of Metalloids