What are Metals ?

 What are Metals ?

  Metallic  materials that are  made of “metallic elements”.  These elements, when combined, usually  have  electrons that are non-localized  and as  a consequence have generic types of properties. Metals usually are good conductors of heat and electricity. Lustrous and beautiful in shades of red, gold, and silver, metals have been coveted for millennia as  jewelry and  as currency.  Very strong, but capable  of  being formed into  complicated  shapes, metals have been  used  for millennia to  make tools, weapons, girders,  and  consumer goods. Metals  have been used for more than a century  in electrical components from  light bulbs to computer chips. It is no surprise that two of  the early  eras of  human civilization – the Bronze Age and the Iron Age – are named after metals. They were the first materials to be “engineered,” meaning that people learned how to modify properties to meet the need at hand,  rather  than letting  the properties of  a material determine what could be done with it. Ancient materials scientists learned, for example, how to form  a complicated  part from  a soft, ductile  metal, and then, once it was in its  final form,  to  make it hard, strong, and durable. 

Modern research in metals is directed  toward improving their performance and  using  them  in ways no one could have imagined just a few  years ago. For example, the development of “Super alloy” turbine blades has made modern jet transportation possible. These blades operate in environments where temperatures can approach 3,000 degree Fahrenheit,  but blades capable of withstanding  even higher temperatures are needed in order to fly farther and faster. Another important application of metals research is  in integrated electronic circuits. In current work, for example, copper is being used  to create the tiny wires–less than one-thousandth the diameter of a human hair–that connect different  electronic components and are subjected to extremely high electric current  densities and mechanical stresses. Continued research will make it possible  to keep up the trend toward  ever more powerful computers. 

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