The complete list of metals on the periodic table and their real-life applications

What properties do metals share and not share?
Maia Mulko
Metallic bolt
Metallic bolt


A metal is generally defined as a chemical element or molecular compound that is lustrous, ductile, malleable, and exceptionally capable of conducting heat and electricity.

That is why metals are so useful in the construction, manufacturing, and technology industries, and they, of course, play a fundamental role in engineering.

Metals can be found in all kinds of machinery, vehicles (from cars to spacecraft), electronics, biomedical devices, as well as in jewelery and decorative objects.

The complete list of metals on the periodic table and their real-life applications
Mass-produced copper wires

Some metals are also present in the human body, fulfilling basic biological functions. For example, magnesium is a metal that supports energy production at a cellular level. Magnesium is a critical cofactor in more than 300 enzymatic reactions. Adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the main source of energy in cells, binds to magnesium ions to become biologically active. Magnesium is also critical for a great number of cellular functions, including oxidative phosphorylation, glycolysis, DNA transcription, protein synthesis, and membrane stabilization. And that is just one metal.

Although sometimes it can be hard to differentiate metals from non-metals and metalloids, there are about 94 metals in the periodic table, according to the Royal Society of Chemistry, of which six are metalloids - elements with properties between, or a mixture of, metals and non-metals.

Here’s all you need to know about them.

What is a metal?

A metal is an inorganic substance with certain chemical, physical, and mechanical properties.

Most metals are found in ores (mineral-bearing substances), but some, including copper, gold, platinum, and silver often occur in the free state because they do not readily react with other elements.

Chemists and metallurgic experts can create specific metal-based compounds for different purposes. A compound that involves at least one metal is called an alloy, independently of its natural or artificial formation.

The complete list of metals on the periodic table and their real-life applications
This bronze hand was found in Yemen (100-300 CE). Bronze is an alloy of copper, tin, and sometimes other metals.

In metallurgy, metals can also be classified as ferrous or non-ferrous. Ferrous metals contain iron, while non-ferrous metals do not. This has an impact on the physical properties of each kind of metal. For example, ferrous metals tend to have more magnetic properties than non-ferrous metals, and are stronger and harder than non-ferrous metals, but also tend to be heavier and less malleable, and have less resistance to rust and corrosion.

In chemistry, metals can be classified as:

  • Alkali metals. Highly reactive, silvery metals with low melting and boiling points, and only one electron on their valence (outermost) shell. They tend to lose this outer shell electron to form cations, which makes them highly electropositive and is also why they are not found in the pure state. Nowadays, the best-known alkali metal is probably lithium, which constitutes the lithium-ion batteries that power our mobile devices. Other alkali metals include sodium, potassium, francium, cesium, and rubidium.
  • Alkaline earth metals. Silvery-white metals with low density and low melting and boiling points. They are less reactive than alkali metals but tend to form alkaline hydroxides when mixed with water. Alkaline-earth elements are highly metallic, are good conductors of electricity, and are strong reducing agents. They also have many uses in medicine. Examples include: beryllium, magnesium, calcium, strontium, barium, and radium.
  • Transition metals. These have valence electrons — electrons that can participate in the formation of chemical bonds—in two shells instead of only one. Transition metals are hard, heavy, and lustrous, they have high melting and boiling points, and are good conductors of heat and electricity. They often form stable, colorful compounds. They represent the transition between the main group elements on either side of the periodic table. Many transition metals are used structurally and in electrical technology and they form many useful alloys. Examples include titanium, nickel, gold, silver, iron, copper, platinum, tungsten (wolfram), etc.
  • Post-transition metals. Also known as “poor metals”, the post-transition metals tend to be soft or brittle, but dense. They tend to form covalent bonds and half-metallic compounds. There is no clear agreement on what constitutes a post-transition metal other than that they are located between the transition metals and the metalloids. The exact number of post-transition metals depends on where the transition metals and metalloids begin and end, and so there are a number of different proposals for which elements to count as post-transition metals. However, all of these include gallium, indium, tin, thallium, lead, and bismuth. Applications include electronics, aircraft, and utensils manufacturing, among others.
  • Lanthanides. Also called lanthanoids, these are soft, silvery-white metals that resist electricity, ignite with air, and dissolve in acid. They are commonly used in optical devices, such as night vision goggles, and petroleum refining. Examples: cerium, samarium, europium, erbium, thulium, terbium, promethium, etc. Combined with the chemically similar elements scandium and yttrium, these are also known as the rare-earth metals.
  • Actinides. Malleable, soft but dense metals that are paramagnetic, toxic, and radioactive due to their unstable nuclei. Only four (actinium, thorium, protactinium, and uranium) occur in nature in appreciable quantities; the other 11 (also called the transuranium elements) are produced only artificially. They are commonly used in smoke detectors, nuclear weapons, and nuclear reactors (as fuel). Examples include neptunium, plutonium, americium, curium, berkelium, etc.

What are the common properties of metals?

In spite of their differences, all metals share the following characteristics:

  • Malleability. They can be deformed under compression, and can be formed into sheets and drawn into wires. Metals might look hard, but they can often be hammered, pressed, bent, rolled, etc., relatively easily (think of the gold and silver with which we build jewelry). There are, however, metals that are less malleable than others, such as nickel.
  • The complete list of metals on the periodic table and their real-life applications
    Nickel ore
  • Ductility. Ductility is a mechanical property that refers to a material’s ability to stretch and narrow in the presence of tensile forces. The use of these forces to elongate materials is a metalworking method called drawing, and it often involves turning metals into bars, wires, and tubes.

    Gold, platinum, and silver are the most ductile metals in the periodic table.

  • Thermal conductivity. Metals are good at conducting heat. This means that they tend to transfer heat instead of retaining it. This makes them ideal for applications in which dissipation of heat is vital, such as in wires or the development of heat transfer equipment. Examples include silver, copper, aluminum, and brass (an alloy of copper and zinc).
  • Electrical conductivity. Electrically charged particles move through the chemical structure of metals with relative ease because they have “free electrons” —where individual atoms have lost their valence electrons, which move as a group throughout the solid. For some metals, such as the transition metals, conductivity may be better explained by the interaction of free electrons with so-called d electrons. In both cases, the flow of electrons is used to maintain an electric current. This property is the reason why metals are widely used in all kinds of electric appliances. For example, cables in electrical power grids are made of highly conductive metals (such as copper, gold, or aluminum) because they need to distribute an electric current over a distance without significant energy loss.
  • Metallic luster. Metals have a shiny, or lustrous, appearance because they reflect a lot of light. This feature favors their use as mirrors for astronomical instruments and is one reason why some metals are preferred for jewelry (primarily gold, silver, titanium, and platinum).
  • The complete list of metals on the periodic table and their real-life applications
    Viking gold jewels at the National Museum of Denmark
  • Positive ion formation. Metals tend to lose electrons and form positively charged ions called cations. These cations can react to oxygen in the air and result in different oxides depending on the metal.

List of metals

In order of atomic number (as per the Royal Society of Chemistry):

  • Lithium (Li)
  • Beryllium (Be)
  • Boron (B)
  • Sodium (Na)
  • Magnesium (Mg)
  • Aluminum (Al)
  • Silicon (Si)
  • Potassium (K)
  • Calcium (Ca)
  • Scandium (Sc)
  • Titanium (Ti)
  • Vanadium (V)
  • Chromium (Cr)
  • Manganese (Mn)
  • Iron (Fe)
  • Cobalt (Co)
  • Nickel (Ni)
  • Copper (Cu)
  • Zinc (Zn)
  • Gallium (Ga)
  • Germanium (Ge)
  • Arsenic (As)
  • Rubidium (Rb)
  • Strontium (Sr)
  • Ytterbium (Yb)
  • Zirconium (Zr)
  • Niobium (Nb)
  • Molybdenum (Mo)
  • Technetium (Tc)
  • Ruthenium (Ru)
  • Rhodium (Rh)
  • Palladium (Pd)
  • Silver (Ag)
  • Cadmium (Cd)
  • Indium (In)
  • Tin (Sn)
  • Antimony (Sb)
  • Tellurium (Te)
  • Cesium (Cs)
  • Barium (Ba)
  • Lanthanum (La)
  • Hafnium (Hf)
  • Tantalum (Ta)
  • Wolfram or tungsten (W)
  • Rhenium (Re)
  • Osmium (Os)
  • Iridium (Ir)
  • Platinum (Pt)
  • Gold (Au)
  • Mercury (Hg)
  • Thallium (Tl)
  • Lead (Pb)
  • Bismouth (Bi)
  • Polonium (Po)
  • Francium (Fr)
  • Radium (Ra)
  • Actinium (Ac)
  • Rutherfordium (Rf)
  • Dubnium (Db)
  • Seaborgium (Sg)
  • Bohrium (Bh)
  • Hassium (Hs)
  • Meitnerium (Mt)
  • Darmstadtium (Ds)
  • Roentgenium (Rg)
  • Copernicium (Cn)
  • Cerium (Ce)
  • Praseodymium (Pr)
  • Neodymium (Nd)
  • Promethium (Pm)
  • Samarium (Sm)
  • Europium (Eu)
  • Gadolinium (Gd)
  • Terbium (Tb)
  • Dysprosium (Dy)
  • Holmium (Ho)
  • Erbium (Er)
  • Thulium (Tm)
  • Ytterbium (Yb)
  • Lutetium (Lu)
  • Thorium (Th)
  • Protactinium (Pa)
  • Uranium (U)
  • Neptunium (Np)
  • Plutonium (Pu)
  • Americium (Am)
  • Curium (Cm)
  • Berkelium (Bk)
  • Californium (Cf)
  • Einsteinium (Es)
  • Fermium (Fm)
  • Mendelevium (Md)
  • Nobelium (No)
  • Lawrencium (Lr)

Metalloids or semi-metals include:

  • Antimony (Sb)
  • Arsenic (As)
  • Boron (B)
  • Germanium (Ge)
  • Silicon (Si)
  • Tellurium (Te)

The complete list of metals on the periodic table and their real-life applications
Periodic table

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