Is Oxygen a Metal? (+ 3 Fascinating Facts to Know)

Oxygen is not a metal, it’s a nonmetal found in Group 16 of the periodic table. 1 It has similar properties to other nonmetals like being a bad conductor of heat and electricity, having a low melting and boiling point, and creating covalent bonds with other nonmetals. 2

Well, this was just a simple answer. But there are few more things to know about this topic which will make your concept super clear.

So let’s dive right into it.

Key Takeaways: Is oxygen a metal?

  • Oxygen is a nonmetal, not a metal.
  • Oxygen has several properties that are characteristic of nonmetals, such as being a poor conductor of heat and electricity, having a low melting and boiling point, and forming covalent bonds with other nonmetals.
  • Oxygen is different from other nonmetals in several ways, such as its reactivity, abundance, role in life, and properties as a gas.

Why is oxygen a nonmetal?

Oxygen is classified as a nonmetal because it has several properties that are characteristic of nonmetals. Nonmetals are generally elements that lack metallic properties, such as the ability to conduct heat and electricity, and have low melting and boiling points. 3

Oxygen is a gas at room temperature and atmospheric pressure and has a low melting and boiling point. It is also a poor conductor of heat and electricity. Additionally, oxygen typically forms negatively charged ions (anions) when it reacts with other elements. 4

In contrast, metals tend to be good conductors of heat and electricity, have high melting and boiling points, and typically form positively charged ions (cations) when they react with other elements. 5

Overall, the combination of low melting and boiling points, poor electrical conductivity, and tendency to form anions makes oxygen more similar to other nonmetals than to metals, which is why it is classified as a nonmetal.

Properties of oxygen that classify it as a nonmetal

Here are some properties of oxygen that classify it as a nonmetal.

  • Low melting and boiling point: Oxygen has a relatively low melting and boiling point compared to metals. 6 This is because nonmetals tend to have weak intermolecular forces of attraction, making it easier to break the bonds holding the atoms together.
  • Poor electrical conductivity: Oxygen is a poor conductor of electricity because it does not have any free electrons or mobile ions that can carry a current. Nonmetals generally do not have the ability to conduct electricity due to their electronic configuration.
  • High electronegativity: Electronegativity is a measure of an element’s ability to attract electrons towards itself. Oxygen has a high electronegativity, which makes it more likely to form negative ions, a common trait among nonmetals. 7
  • Tendency to form covalent bonds: Nonmetals such as oxygen tend to form covalent bonds, where they share electrons with other atoms to form stable molecules. This is in contrast to metals, which tend to form ionic bonds by transferring electrons.
  • High ionization energy: Ionization energy is the amount of energy required to remove an electron from an atom or ion. Nonmetals generally have a high ionization energy, making it difficult for them to form positive ions. 8

These properties, taken together, are characteristic of nonmetals and help to classify oxygen as a nonmetal element.

How is oxygen different from other nonmetals?

Here are a few ways that oxygen is different from other nonmetals:

  • Reactivity: Oxygen is one of the most reactive nonmetals, and it readily combines with other elements to form oxides. This is because of its high electronegativity, which makes it strongly attract electrons from other elements.
  • Abundance: Oxygen is the most abundant element in the Earth’s crust, making up almost half of its mass. 9 This is due in part to the fact that oxygen readily combines with other elements to form a wide variety of compounds, many of which are found in rocks and minerals.
  • Role in life: Oxygen plays a crucial role in life on Earth, as it is necessary for respiration in animals and photosynthesis in plants. No other nonmetal plays such a vital role in the biology of living organisms. 10
  • Diatomic molecule: Unlike most nonmetals, oxygen exists as a diatomic molecule (O2), meaning that two oxygen atoms are bonded together to form a stable molecule. Other nonmetals such as chlorine (Cl2) and nitrogen (N2) also exist as diatomic molecules, but not all nonmetals do. 11
  • Properties as a gas: Oxygen is a colorless, odorless gas at room temperature and atmospheric pressure. It is slightly denser than air, but still quite light. Other nonmetals such as sulfur, for example, are solid at room temperature and must be heated to become a gas.

These are just a few of the ways that oxygen differs from other nonmetals. While it shares many characteristics with other nonmetals, its unique properties and abundance have made it a crucial element in many aspects of life and the natural world.

Further reading

Is Magnesium a Metal or Nonmetal?
Is Fluorine a Metal?
Is Fluorine a Gas?
Is Germanium a Metal, Nonmetal or Metalloid?
Is Nitrogen Flammable?

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  1. Oxygen – Element information, properties and uses | Periodic Table. (n.d.). Oxygen – Element Information, Properties and Uses | Periodic Table.
  2. Covalent Bonds. (2020, July 25). Chemistry LibreTexts.
  3. Characteristics of Nonmetals. (2016, June 25). Chemistry LibreTexts.
  4. 2.5: Ion Formation. (2016, August 5). Chemistry LibreTexts.
  5. Cation | chemistry. (n.d.). Encyclopedia Britannica.
  6. Melting and Boiling-Point Data. (1885, August). Nature, 32(825), 364–364.
  7. Electronegativities of the elements (data page) – Wikipedia. (n.d.). Electronegativities of the Elements (Data Page) – Wikipedia.
  8. Lang, P. F., & Smith, B. C. (2003, August). Ionization Energies of Atoms and Atomic Ions. Journal of Chemical Education, 80(8), 938.
  10. Babcock, G. T. (1999, November 9). How oxygen is activated and reduced in respiration. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 96(23), 12971–12973.
  11. K. (n.d.). O2. O2.

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