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There are seven different elements classified as nonmetals: Hydrogen, Carbon, Nitrogen, Oxygen, Phosphorus, Sulfur, and Selenium.

The Halogens and Noble Gases are often known as nonmetals as well. Compared to metals, nonmetals are very poor conductors of electricity and heat. Nonmetals form acidic oxides, where as metals form basic oxides. The appearance of nonmetals (in solid form) is generally very dull. Nonmetals also tend to be brittle; have very low densities, melting points, and boiling points.

Nonmetals make up most of the earth's crust, atmosphere, and bodies of water. Living organisms are also composed of tissues, which are made up of nonmetals. At room temperature, nonmetals exist in two of the three states of matter: gases and solids.


Electron Shell of Hydrogen

Hydrogen, not only being the first element on the Periodic Table of Elements, is the most abundant element in the whole universe. The word Hydrogen comes from the Greek words 'hydro'(water) and 'genes' (generate), thus explaining its many uses. The atomic symbol for Hydrogen is 'H'. It's atomic number is 1, and it's atomic mass is 1.00794 g/mol. Hydrogen is completely odorless, colorless, and tasteless. It is known as the most flammable of all known substances, and about 75% of the most abundant compounds contain hydrogen. Hydrogen is the only element to have three isotopes that each have their own names. These isotopes are: Protium, Deuterium, and Tritium. Each of these isotopes have one proton, one electron to balance it, and different numbers of neutrons. Protium has no neutrons, Deuterium has one neutron, and Tritium has two neutrons.

Hydrogen has the potential to be a very efficient fuel source. Hydrogen is most commonly obtained from mines, oil, and gas wells. One of the biggest uses of Hydrogen is a fuel for combustion. Combustion of Hydrogen works in internal combustion engines, gas turbines, and in rocket ships or jets.

Hydrogen is also used in fuel cells. A fuel cell is a device that produces a continuous electrical current from the combination of hydrogen with oxygen, and/or another substance. For example, fuel cells are used on the space shuttle to provide electricity needed for the operation of the shuttle. The combination of Hydrogen, Oxygen, and other substances creates electricity, heat, and breathable oxygen for the astronauts aboard. There are thousands of things Hydrogen is used for; it is used to produce: ammonia, gasoline, heating oil, fertilizer, glass, metal, vitamins, makeup, soaps, and even margarine and peanut butter! Also, wind power and hydroelectric plants produce Hydrogen in order to store energy during off peak times.

Hydrogen was first recognized as a distinct substance in 1766 by Henry Cavendish, an English chemist and physicist. Hydrogen is found in great abundance in many stars and planets. Hydrogen is most always found in its atomic and plasma states. Most of the hydrogen found on the Earth is found in the form of chemical compounds, such as hydrocarbons and water.


Electron Shell of Carbon
Carbon's Appearance

Carbon is the sixth element on the periodic table. It's symbol on the Periodic Table is 'C', its atomic number is 6, and its atomic mass is 12.0107. It has six protons and six electorons.

Two of the most common forms of carbon are graphite and diamond. Even though they are made up of the same element, they have different structures due to the bonding differences. Diamond is the hardest substance in the world and is a great electrical insulator. Graphite is one of the softest minerals on the world and is a good conductor of electricity. Diamond has a very strong and rigid structure because it is strongly covalently bonded. Graphite is very brittle. Even though it is covalently bonded, it is easily broken due to its weak intermolecular bonds.

Carbon has the ability to form covalent bonds with itself, creating chain or ring molecules. This ability is known as catenation. Catenation takes place in other elements, but carbon is the most well-known element for its ability to do so.

Carbon has four different allotropes: amorphous, diamond, graphite, and fullerenes. A fifth allotrope has recently been discovered that is very lightweight, spongy, and is attracted to magnets.


Electron Shell of Nitrogen
Nitrogen's Appearance

Nitrogen is the most common element in the earth's atmosphere, making up 70% of present gases. Nitrogen is essential for living organisms and plays a large part in the amino acids and living tissues that make them up. Nitrogen is a steadily reacting element and generally reacts with elements, such as lithium and magnesium, to form nitrides. In the atmosphere, it is found as a gas or in rock layers. Nitrogen gas is colorless, odorless, and tasteless. Nitrogen is trivalent to most bonds because its atoms are usually found in pairs as diatomic models, bonding with themselves.

Interestingly, Nitrogen is used in the formation of stars and occurs throughout outer space. The element itself is actually created by the Sun and stars. The atmosphere of Jupiter's moon, Titan, is made up almost entirely of Nitrogen.

Being used for natural and artificial growth in plants, farmers rely on Nitrogen for the production of their crops. In the legume crop, Nitrogen is used for restoring the soil, making it fertile for other crops to grow again. Since Nitrogen is an inhert gas, it is also used as a tool for chemists, usually as a shield to keep oxygen reacting with other elements. Also, known for its cooling abilities, it is often used in food freezers. Because it is so unreactive, it is sometimes used to fill lightbulbs.


Electron Shell of Oxygen
Oxygen's Appearance

Oxygen, being the most widely known element in the world, is the third most abundant element in the sun and is used in the earth's carbon-nitrogen cycle. Oxygen is very reactive, and is a major component in thousands and thousands of compunds. It will form oxides with all of the elements on the Periodic Table, except for Helium(He), Neon(Ne), Argon(Ar), and Krypton(Kr). It is usually in air form, and when turned into a liquid or a solid, it is a clear or light blue color. Oxygen is odorless and tasteless, is slightly heavier than air, and is a little bit soluble in water.

Oxygen is the biggest component of the earth's crust, and its second biggest occurence is in the Earth's atmosphere. Oxygen is usually found in the form of silicates or water. Silicates are an oxide of silicon. Oxygen makes up two-thirds of water's (H2O) weight.

Oxygen has thousands of uses. Probably Oxygen's most obvious use is in the Earth's atmosphere, because we need it to breathe and stay alive. Oxygen is also a necessity for creating fire. Plants and animals could not survive without oxygen, because, just like humans, they need respiration. Oxygen is often used in hospitals to treat patients with pneumonia, gas poisoning, and other ailments. It is very important in iron and steel industries. Oxygen is also used as a liquid-form oxidizer in fuel systems of rockets.


Electron Shell of Phosphorus
Phosphorus's Appearance

Phosphorus, being an extremely reactive element, cannot be found as a free element in nature. It is in the nitrogen group and is a multivalent nonmetal. Phosphorus, being transparent and colorless in pure form, is generally a waxy, white solid. Phosphorus is insoluble in water, yet soluble in carbon disulfide. It is highly poisonous because it burns in air to its penoxide, and can cause severe burns when it comes in contact with skin.

Phosphorus has four forms of allotropes, which are two forms of white, red, and black. White phosphorus is converted to red phosphorus when it is heated or exposed to sunlight. Red phosphorus can actually vary in color, from orange to purple. Red phosphorus, unlike white phosphorus, does not phosphoresce in air. Black phosphorus has the ability to conduct electricity, as it is made under high pressure and looks and feels like graphite.

Phosphorus can be found in many different minerals. Phosphate rocks are most abundantly found in China, Russia, Morocco, Florida, Idaho, Tennessee, and Utah. Phosphorus has thousands of uses, such as: smoke bombs, safety matches, pyrotechnics, incendiary shells, tracer bullets, fireworks, pesticides, toothpaste, shampoos, detergents, explosives, and nerve agents.


Electron Shell of Sulfur
Sulfur's Appearance

Sulfur is a non-metal and a multivalent element, and can be found almost everywhere on the earth. It has a very distinct odor, often described as that of a rotten egg. When Sulfur is burned, it burns with a blue flame and releases Sulfur Dioxide. Sulfur can form compounds with all the elements on the periodic table except for the Noble Gases. Sulfur is insoluble in water, yet soluble in Carbon Disulfide. Sulfur is also known for its crystallography. The allotrpes of sulfur form rhombic and monoclinic crystal structures. At room temperature, an amorphous form of Sulfur is metestable and then begins to form into crystalline. This transformation process usually takes several hours, or even days, but on rare occasions, takes just a few minutes.

Sulfur is most abundantly found near hot springs and volcanoes. The Pacific Ring of Fire, a large ring of volcanoes, has many hot springs and volcanoes with an abundance of sulfur. Sulfur deposits are believed to be originated from the action of anaerobic bacteria on sulfate minerals.

The metal sulfides like pyrite, which is iron sulfide, cinnabar, which is mercury sulfide, galena, which is lead sulfide, sphalerite, which is zinc sulfide, stibnite, which is antimony sulfide are categorized as common naturally occurring sulfur compounds. The metal sulfates like gypsum, which is calcium sulfate, alunite, which is potassium aluminium sulfate, and barite, which is barium sulfate are also categorized as common naturally occurring sulfur compounds.


Electron Shell of Selenium
Selenium's Appearance

Selenium only occurs rarely in a free state of nature. Being a nonmetal, it is chemically similiar to Sulfur and Tellurium. Selenium occurs in several different forms, but the most stable of these is a dense purplish-gray form that has the structure of a trigonal polymer chain. It is toxic in abundant amounts, but small amounts of it are necessary for the function of cells in all animals.

Selenium conducts electricity very well in the dark and is used in photocells. It also exists in many nonconductive forms, such as: a black glassy substance, and red crystalline forms built of ring molecules with eight members.