Why Do Metals Have High Melting Points? Science Facts For Kids

Joan Agie
Oct 12, 2023 By Joan Agie
Originally Published on Oct 29, 2021
Metal in a .ceramic cup and poured into a form.

Metals are all around us; while some of them are used in electroplating and others are used in thermometers, their use depends on their melting point.

It's not uncommon to assume that all metals have high melting and boiling points. However, a lot of these properties depend on their location on the periodic table.

The melting point of any element determines its position on the periodic table. It can also determine what kind of chemical and molecular bonds its electrons form.

Scientists can easily identify a metal and a non-metal by determining the element's melting point. Metals are known to be solid at room temperature, although they can be observed as components in other elements that may remain liquid at room temperature. Metals are generally shiny with high density, and they are also good conductors of electricity.

Non-metals are typically semiconductors or insulators because they don't have free space electrons inside them and their valance shell is too far away. Free space electrons conduct electricity.

But, that's not the same with all metals. There are many metals that have different properties than most metals, like mercury.

Mercury has a very low melting point and it exists as a liquid at room temperature, despite the fact that it is related to the metal family. In this case, the forces of attraction between the electrons is weak, so the element melts and exists as a liquid.

Many clues about a melting point can be uncovered by simply observing the structure or the bonding of electrons in a metal.

If the bond is covalent, then the melting and boiling temperature are high and a lot of energy is required to disrupt the forces attracting the ions to each other. Transition metals have high melting points because of lots of unpaired electrons.

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Why do metals have higher melting points than nonmetals?

Metals have a high melting point because they have the strongest metallic bond. Strong metallic bonds play a major role when it comes to the structure of atoms.

When scientists say that a specific metal is hard to boil or melt, they are basically saying that it takes more heat or energy to change its physical form compared to other elements. High melting and boiling points are due of the attraction force between the electrons of a particular element or metal.

Electron bonding or bonds formed by free ions inside a metal is what determines its high melting point.

Some metals are very dense. That is, their chemical bonding and molecular bonding are very strong and it takes a lot of heat to overcome the force of attraction between the electrons.

The lattice structure that is also known as the delocalized sea of electrons, having strong ionic and metallic bonding, is even harder to break, resulting in higher melting points. Most metals are composed of a giant lattice structure, resulting in delocalized electrons.

They are high in density, and in such elements, the number of electrostatic forces required to break the electrons bond is very high. This results in a very high melting point that requires more energy to break the bonding between electrons.

Apart from that, there are also many elements that have lower melting points due to weaker metallic bonds. Other metals, such as sodium (from the left side of the periodic table), have stronger metallic bonds and high melting points.

Both magnesium and sodium are metals, but the metallic bonds between their electrons is different. Sodium forms covalent bonds. On the other hand, non-metals are closely packed and don't have any free electrons available to conduct electricity.

They also have a very high affinity for electrons, and that is why their bond breaks easily. These elements are highly electronegative and require less heat to break their bonds.

Why does the melting point of metals vary?

Metals often share similar qualities with one another. Their melting points differ due to their specific metallic bond; the answer to why do metals have high melting points does not relate to their physical characteristics. Different metals have different bonds, which is why they have a different boiling points and melting points.

Metals are present on the left side of the periodic table and they all belong to different groups. The different groups are classified based on atomic structure and particular heat properties.

Both can affect metallic bonds. The same can be observed when considering metals such as magnesium, which has a significantly higher boiling temperature than its cousin, chlorine.

All in all, the conclusive answer involves the concept of metallic bonds, the structure of atoms, and the type of bonds they form with each other. Elements will melt at temperatures according to their covalent or ionic bonds, their chemical makeup, and the density of atoms of which it is composed.

Why do metals have high boiling points?

The force or energy required to break the electrostatic forces between the atoms is extremely high because their strong covalent bonds. So, metals have high melting and boiling points.

Metals have a very strong structure and an adequate number of free ions, but that is not the main reason why they have high melting points. Metals are used in various applications due to their ductile, malleable nature.

They are fairly flexible and used in a lot of solid applications such as making electricity wires and household utensils. The reason why their melting point is strong is because of their strong metallic bonds. The high heat required to break these bonds is measured in the form of energy.

What is the difference between metals and metalloids?

Metalloids are located in the middle of the periodic table and possess the properties of both metals and non-metals. They are located at the 'P' block.

The periodic table is a comprehensive reference tool, as it is home to nearly all kinds of elements, be they conductors, insulators, non-metals, metals, or metalloids.

When most people think about metal, they usually consider it to be hard, difficult to break, shiny, malleable, ductile, and something that possesses a strong thermal conductivity. On the other hand, elements that do not have these properties are non-metals.

A metalloid is an element that contains some of these characteristics, but not all of them; it shares properties of both metals and non-metals.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for why do metals have high melting points, then why not take a look at why do we have armpit hair, or why do my joints crack?

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Written by Joan Agie

Bachelor of Science specializing in Human Anatomy

Joan Agie picture

Joan AgieBachelor of Science specializing in Human Anatomy

With 3+ years of research and content writing experience across several niches, especially on education, technology, and business topics. Joan holds a Bachelor’s degree in Human Anatomy from the Federal University of Technology, Akure, Nigeria, and has worked as a researcher and writer for organizations across Nigeria, the US, the UK, and Germany. Joan enjoys meditation, watching movies, and learning new languages in her free time.

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