Non-metals are materials which are considered as poor conducting capability and the main use of such materials is to insulate against current flow. There are lots of non-metallic substances around us and especially in Earth’s atmosphere which are composed of non-metallic elements. The electron bonds of these substances are broken down by lightning and these huge voltages are thrown to the ground.
The chemical elements are classified as metals, non-metals and metalloids mainly on the element’s capability to conduct electricity at normal temperature and pressure there are still other distinction taken into account when we classify the elements in periodic table. The noble gas although non-metallic in nature but have special properties that give them a specific classification and the same goes for halogens as well.
The aim of non-metals is to present the current scientific understanding of physics chemistry and geology of these non-metals including how these are synthesized in universe. Based on the manner in which these elements are synthesized the uses of these are also based on such parameters.
Many of the non-metals are present in the air we breathe and many of them are present in dry atmospheric air we see around us in volume percentage.
- Nitrogen which is present in 78% volume wise is an important element. This is used in industries for the production of ammonia which is an important ingredient of fertilizers we use in agricultural fields.
- Oxygen is another important element present in atmosphere and is present by volume 21% in the air. This is essential for life since it is required for respiration.
- Apart from respiration oxygen is also used in industries like manufacturing of steel, metal fabrication work where high temperature is required for the purpose.
- Oxygen cylinders are used in emergency situation and hospitals where this gas is used for trauma treatment.
- Noble gases like argon, xenon etc. are used in all kinds of colourful displays where glowing signs are utilised for advertisement purposes.
- Helium is used widely in all kinds of scientific research where the inert gas is made use of for specific environment
- Helium is used by meteorology department for weather balloons
- Light bulbs filled with neon, argon, krypton are also made use of for producing laser beams
- The krypton, neon gases are used in filling night club bulbs to provide sparkling coloured bulbs for theatre and night clubs
- The chlorine and iodine are two other widely used non-metals and as they are present in group VII. Chlorine is used for purification of our drinking water supplies as it helps in killing the bacteria.
- Chlorine is also used as a bleaching agent which helps in removing stains or colour from various materials.
- Chlorine is used for making various useful chemicals like insecticides and graded plastics.
- Chlorine is also used for making polyvinyl chloride to be used in various pipeline and garden hose.
- Iodine is used widely as an antiseptic which prevents the growth of microorganism and used mainly to clean cuts and wounds.
- Iodine is also used for making anti-bacterial gurgles which helps in preventing throat infection.
- The non-metals are elements that do not exhibit the characteristics of a metal and most of them are colourless. In ancient times these were referred to as air and was not differentiated as much till 18th century.
- The special characters that some of these possess created special kind of aura about two non-metals, carbon and sulphur. Early humans and subsequent settlements were fascinated by the immense contributions that were provided by these two elements apart from the metals.
- Both non-metals sulphur and carbon are associated with fire which was the main point of attractions for humans over centuries and human always wanted to control and innovate the fire utility.
- Carbon was known in the form of charcoal and lamp black or soot and sulphur was well known in areas close to volcanic zones.
- Lamp black was used for making ink which was for writing purpose as ancient Egyptians utilised this for papyrus writing.
- Although free sulphur was not found as widely as carbon but was well known because of its occurrence in volcanic zones.
- The distinct yellow colour made it very distinctive and the burning of sulphur with blue flame made it a sought after non-metal. This was known as brimstone or stones which burn and aptly known for the modern day expression of fire and brimstone.
- Apart from these two distinct non-metals another non-metal which was also known to an extent was phosphorus, a waxy white solid mainly used for fire display.
- Among the most common non-metals, carbon is considered to be the most abundant in all forms of biotic and abiotic part.
- The carbon black is used in the manufacture of rubber tyres and also as pigment in black printing ink.
- Apart from these coke is another product which is used in the manufacturing of iron. Coke is produced by heating coal in absence of oxygen.
- Another allotropic form of carbon, graphite is used for various lubricating agents in high profile electronic gadgets.
- Graphite is also used in various electro magnet instruments where it is used as the brush.
- Industrial diamond which is an allotropic form of carbon is used for glass cutting and other precision cutting instruments.
- Buck fullerene is man-made carbon allotropic form used for various space age technology and for new age defence stealth technology.
- The various fabrics and linens that we use at home are again various forms of non-metal products.
- Daily use articles like pen, eraser, pencils, plastic materials, PVC pipes, medicines and drugs, fuel that burn to run vehicles are mostly non-metals.
Apart from various non-metal utilisation in specific purpose we also have very common uses of non-metals around us. Carbon is the most common and familiar non-metal which exist in two crystalline forms and in many amorphous forms around us both in a very significant manner as well as insignificantly.
- Diamond is the hardest substance known and is very abrasion resistant and hence is used for industrial cutting tools and also as grinding stone, turn table needles and as glass cutting knife.
- Graphite with cloud of electrons around covalent bond is slippery and hence the pencils that we use daily can be cut / sliced easily
- Charcoal is an important amorphous form of carbon is used making small fires and is also used for ultra-filtration in new age water filters
- Charcoal in charged form is also used as bad odour absorbent in refrigerators
- Charcoal forms are used in sugar industry for decolourisation purposes
- Activated charcoal is used as purifier in industrial processes
- Carbon polymers are used in various synthetic fibre productions
- Chlorine is used as the main ingredient for producing bleaching powder used in both cleaning and water purifying processes, while Iodine is used for making tincture iodine used in pharmaceutical industries
- Sulphur is utilised for making firecracker
- Carbon, hydrogen and oxygen are the main ingredients of all organic compounds we get to see around us
Non-metals like nitrogen, phosphorus, boron contribute a large way producing specific compounds which are used on a daily basis either directly or indirectly. Nitrogen is used for making ammonia which is used as a coolant in refrigeration, while phosphorus is used in many drugs and medicines which are consumed on a daily basis. Boron which is the main ingredient of boric acid is used for producing antibiotic powder which is a main product for all kinds of cuts and bruises.