Why are metals malleable, and ductile, and conductive of heat and electricity?

1 Answer
Jan 7, 2017

Because of #"metallic bonding."#


#"Metallic bonding"# results from the close packing of metal atoms, such that the atoms contribute a few of their valence electrons to the overall lattice. These valence electrons are delocalized, and not associated with any particular atom.

Metallic bonding is thus often described as #"positive ions in a sea of electrons"#, in which the metal nuclei can move with respect to each other, without disrupting the metallic bond.

And since #"metallic bonding"# is thus non-molecular, the individual metal atoms can move with respect to each other without disrupting the metallic bond. As a consequence metals are (i) #"malleable"#, capable of being hammered out into a sheet, and (ii) #"ductile"#, capable of being drawn into a wire. These properties make metals the premier material for making tools.

The delocalization of electrons in metallic bonds, also confers electrical conductivity to most metals.