From Composite to Ceramic: Exploring the Versatility of Non-Metallic Materials [PDF]


Non-metallic materials are used in engineering practice due to their low density, low cost, flexibility, and resistance to heat and electricity. Often, these materials provide solutions that traditional materials can not provide. For this reason, non-metallic materials have created their own space in engineering applications. A variety of products and resources that we use in our everyday life are made from non-metallic materials. In this article, we will learn about the properties, examples, applications, types, and characteristics of non-metallic materials.

Non-Metallic Materials - Wood

What are Non-Metallic Materials?

Non-metallic materials can be defined as any material that does not contain any metallic element in its composition. So, all non-metallic materials consist of non-metals. Because of the absence of metals, the properties of non-metallic materials are significantly different from metallic materials. Non-metals create the basic building block for all non-metallic materials. Some common non-metals are:

  • Solid Non-Metals: Carbon, Phosphorous, Iodide, Sulphur, Selenium.
  • Liquid Non-Metals: Bromine, Sulphur, fluorine
  • Gaseous Non-Metal: Hydrogen, Oxygen, Nitrogen, Helium, Argon, Krypton, Fluorine, Neon, Chlorine, Xenon, and Radon.
Non-Metallic Materials - Rubber

Solid Non-Metals

Solid non-metals are an essential component of our world, and they play a vital role in our daily lives. Among the most common and significant solid non-metals are carbon, phosphorus, iodine, sulfur, and selenium. These elements are unique in that they do not possess metallic properties such as high thermal or electrical conductivity.


Carbon is arguably the most well-known solid non-metal, and it is present in various forms such as graphite, diamond, and amorphous carbon. Carbon is an essential building block of life, and it is present in all living organisms. Its unique properties make it a popular material for various applications, such as in electronics, construction, and even in the food industry.


Phosphorus is another solid non-metal that is essential to life. It is present in DNA and RNA molecules, which are responsible for transmitting genetic information. Phosphorus is also present in various minerals such as apatite, which is a significant source of phosphorus for agricultural purposes.


Iodine is a solid non-metal that is essential for the proper functioning of the human body. It is a critical component of thyroid hormones, which regulate metabolism and growth. Iodine is also used as an antiseptic and is present in various pharmaceuticals and medical applications.


Sulfur is a solid non-metal that is commonly found in nature. It is present in various minerals and ores and is used in the production of fertilizers, chemicals, and even in the production of gunpowder. Sulfur is also present in various foods, such as eggs and garlic, and is responsible for their distinctive taste and odor.


Selenium is a solid non-metal that is essential to human health. It is a vital component of various enzymes and proteins that help protect the body from harmful free radicals. Selenium is also used in various industrial applications, such as in the production of glass and electronics.

Liquid Non-Metals

Liquid Non-metals may not be as well-known as some of their metallic counterparts, but they are just as important and intriguing. While these elements may not be as glamorous as gold or silver, they are just as important to our modern world. Their unique properties and uses make them invaluable in a variety of industries, and their study continues to yield new insights and discoveries.


Bromine a reddish-brown liquid that is often used in flame retardants, water purification, and even as a sedative in medicine. Despite its usefulness, bromine can be dangerous if mishandled, and should always be handled with care and knowledge of its properties.


Sulfur is a yellowish liquid that is often used in the production of fertilizers, rubber, and even gunpowder. It has a distinct smell, reminiscent of rotten eggs, and is an essential element in many biological processes.


Fluorine is a pale yellow gas that is highly reactive and dangerous to handle. However, when combined with other elements, it can produce some of the strongest and most useful materials known to science, including Teflon and Kevlar.

Gaseous Non-Metal

Gaseous non-metals are an important group of elements on the periodic table, consisting of hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, helium, argon, krypton, fluorine, neon, chlorine, xenon, and radon. These elements are characterized by their lack of metallic properties, such as malleability and conductivity, and their tendency to exist in a gaseous state at room temperature and atmospheric pressure.


Hydrogen is the lightest and most abundant element in the universe. This colorless and odorless gas is highly flammable and is used in many industrial processes, including the production of ammonia, methanol, and hydrogen fuel cells. Hydrogen is also used in the space industry as a rocket propellant.


Oxygen is a gas that makes up around 21% of the Earth’s atmosphere. This odorless and colorless gas is essential for life as it is required for respiration for most living organisms. Oxygen is also used in the medical industry as a supplement for patients with respiratory problems, as well as in the welding and cutting of metals.


Nitrogen is a gas that makes up around 78% of the Earth’s atmosphere. Nitrogen is essential for the growth of plants and is a key component in the production of fertilizers. This colorless and odorless gas is also used in the food industry to preserve freshness and as a refrigerant.


Helium is a noble gas that has the lowest boiling point of all elements and is the second lightest element in the universe. It’s also the only element that was discovered outside of Earth before it was found on our planet. Helium is used in a variety of applications, from filling balloons to cooling MRI machines and nuclear reactors.


Argon is a more mysterious element. It’s the most abundant noble gas in Earth’s atmosphere, but it’s also one of the least reactive elements. This makes it ideal for use in light bulbs and welding, where it can help prevent oxidation. Argon is also used in gas chromatography to separate and analyze chemical compounds.


Krypton is another noble gas that’s often associated with superheroes like Superman. But in the real world, krypton has some practical uses as well. It’s often used in high-speed photography to create bright, white flashes of light. Krypton is also used in some types of fluorescent lamps and as a filling gas in energy-efficient windows.


Neon is a noble gas that is known for its bright red-orange glow, which makes it a popular choice for lighting up signs and other displays. But neon is also used in a variety of other applications, including in vacuum tubes, television displays, and even in lasers. Despite its usefulness, neon is relatively rare on Earth, making up only a tiny fraction of the planet’s atmosphere.


Chlorine is a highly reactive and toxic gas that is used primarily in the production of bleach and other cleaning products. But chlorine is also an essential element in many industrial processes, including the production of paper, textiles, and plastics. Despite its usefulness, chlorine is also a potent irritant and can be deadly in high concentrations.


Xenon is a colorless and odorless gas that is used in a variety of applications, including in lighting, medical imaging, and even in space exploration. Xenon is also used as an anesthetic, thanks to its ability to induce a state of unconsciousness without causing respiratory depression. Despite its many uses, xenon is relatively rare on Earth, making up only about one part in 20 million of the atmosphere.


Radon is a radioactive gas that is produced by the decay of uranium and other radioactive elements in the Earth’s crust. Radon is highly dangerous and can cause lung cancer if inhaled in high concentrations. It is also a significant environmental issue, with many homes and buildings experiencing elevated levels of radon due to poor ventilation or other issues.

Multi-Faceted Non-metallic Material : Nylon 6/6

Nylon 6/6 is a multi-faceted non-metal that has taken the world of manufacturing by storm. It’s a type of polyamide that is widely used in various industries for its high strength, durability, and resistance to wear and tear. Nylon 6/6 is a thermoplastic material that can be molded, extruded, or cast into any shape or form, making it a versatile material for different applications.

nylon 6/6 material properties
Credits : Polymersan (amazon)

nylon 6/6 material properties

One of the main advantages of Nylon 6/6 is its high tensile strength, which makes it an ideal material for producing high-stress components such as gears, bearings, and bushings. Its ability to withstand high temperatures, chemicals, and moisture makes it a popular choice in the automotive, aerospace, and electrical industries.

Nylon 6/6 is also widely used in the production of consumer goods such as clothing, carpets, and sports equipment. Aside from its durability and strength, Nylon 6/6 is also an eco-friendly material. It can be recycled and reused multiple times, reducing waste and promoting sustainability. This makes it a popular choice among manufacturers who prioritize environmental sustainability.

Examples of Non-Metallic Materials

A range of materials constitutes the group of non-metallic materials. The following is a list of common non-metallic materials that are found to be used widely.

  • Rubber
  • Plastic
    • Thermoset
    • Thermoplastic
  • Fiber
  • Cork
  • Ceramics
  • Felt
  • Lubricants
  • Adhesives
  • Clay
  • Wood
  • Bones
  • Stone
  • Leather
  • Minerals

Properties of Non-metallic Materials

Non-metallic substances possess chemical and physical properties that are quite different from metallic materials. Unlike metallic elements, non-metallic objects have

  • Little electrical and thermal conductivity
  • High resistance to chemical reactions.
  • Very good corrosion resistance
  • Low heat resistance.
  • Lower strength
  • Low density and lightweight.
  • Usually low melting and boiling point, etc.
Non-Metallic Materials - Leather

Applications for Non-Metallic Materials

Non-metallic materials are widely used in the engineering world and for common uses. Some of the most common applications of non-metallic materials are:

  • Due to their very low thermal and electrical conductivity, Non-metallic materials make good insulators for electrical components.
  • Carbon in the form of coal is widely used as a fuel source.
  • The lightweight and corrosion resistance property of nonmetallic materials allows them to be used as pipes and liners in the oil and gas industry.
  • Non-metallic materials produce energy-efficient automotive parts and are widely used in the automobile and aerospace industries. Various plastic and fiberglass can be found in building aircraft.
  • Some Nonmetallic materials work as a very good sealing element as they are able to remain effective under a range of working conditions.
  • Foam and rubbers are widely used in various applications.
  • The application of tapes and adhesives is well-known.
  • A lot of useful household items are made from plastics and ceramics.
  • Leather is used in the automobile industry, and fashion industry (clothing, shoes, belts, etc)
Applications of Non-Metallic Materials

Advantages of Non-Metallic Materials

The major advantages of non-metallic materials over their metallic counterparts are as follows:

  • Low Cost: Most non-metallic materials are cheaper as compared to metallic elements.
  • Easily Available: The production of non-metallic products is usually easier and faster with very high efficiency.
  • Certain Favorable Properties: Low conductivity, high corrosion resistance, etc are favorable for some applications.
  • Non-metallic materials usually do not need post-production treatments like metallic elements.
Non-Metallic Materials - Stones

Difference between Metallic Non-metallic Materials

From the above discussion, the major differences between metallic and non-metallic materials are quite clear. To simply all these, the main differences between nonmetallic and metallic materials are tabulated below:

Nonmetallic MaterialsMetallic Materials
Does not contain the metallic elements in the composition.Consists of metallic elements.
Non-metallic materials are usually Lightweight.Metallic materials are usually heavy.
Non-conductive electrical and heat energy.Good conductor of electricity and thermal energy.
Less CostlyCost is comparatively more than non-metallic substances.
Does not easily corrodeCorroded easily in a corrosive environment.
Not reactive against various chemical elements.Chemically reactive with most of the chemical elements.
The production process of non-metallic substances is fast and easier.Production of metallic materials is difficult and time taking.
Low strengthHigh Strength
Can show plasticity at room temperatureShows plasticity at high temperatures.
Can not sustain high-temperature applications.Heat resistance ability is more than common non-metallic materials.


Where are non-metals found?

Nonmetals are typically found naturally in the environment and occur in a variety of forms. While some nonmetals can be found in their pure elemental state, others are found in combination with other elements, making up a variety of chemical compounds.

One of the most common places to find nonmetals is in the Earth’s atmosphere. Oxygen, for example, is a nonmetal that makes up about 21 percent of the air we breathe. Other nonmetals, such as nitrogen and carbon, are also present in the atmosphere.

Nonmetals can also be found in the Earth’s crust. Sulfur, for example, is a nonmetal that is often found in volcanic areas. It can be mined from underground deposits or extracted from hot springs.

In addition to natural sources, nonmetals can also be produced artificially through a variety of processes. For example, chlorine, a nonmetal used in many industrial applications, can be produced through the electrolysis of saltwater.

How are nonmetals different from metals?

The most apparent difference between nonmetals and metals are their physical properties. Nonmetals are usually brittle, dull, and poor conductors of electricity and heat. They are also non-malleable, meaning they cannot be shaped into thin sheets or wires. In contrast, metals are usually shiny, malleable and ductile, and excellent conductors of electricity and heat.

Another significant difference between nonmetals and metals is their chemical properties. Nonmetals tend to have a higher electronegativity than metals, which means they have a greater ability to attract electrons towards themselves. This property makes them more reactive than metals, and they tend to form covalent bonds instead of ionic bonds. On the other hand, metals are more likely to donate electrons to form ionic bonds, making them less reactive than nonmetals.

How many nonmetals are in the periodic table?

There are a total of 17 nonmetals in the periodic table. These elements are located on the right-hand side of the table, and are separated from the metals by a zigzag line that runs from boron to astatine.

Can non metals conduct electricity?

Non-metals are elements that are poor conductors of heat and electricity. These elements have high ionization energies and electronegativities, which makes it difficult for them to lose electrons and conduct electricity. In fact, non-metals are generally considered to be insulators or semiconductors, which means they can resist the flow of electricity.

However, some non-metals like graphite and silicon can conduct electricity under certain conditions. Graphite is a form of carbon that has a unique structure that allows it to conduct electricity. It is widely used in batteries, electrodes, and other electrical applications. Silicon, on the other hand, is a semiconductor that can conduct electricity when it is doped with impurities.


In conclusion, non-metallic materials have become an essential part of our daily lives. These materials offer a wide range of benefits, including lightweight, durability, and resistance to corrosion, making them a preferred choice in various industries. The use of non-metallic materials has also contributed significantly to environmental sustainability by reducing the carbon footprint and conserving natural resources.

The development of new non-metallic materials with advanced properties, such as high strength, improved fire resistance, and biodegradability, is an ongoing process that aims to cater to the evolving demands of the industry. As technology continues to advance, non-metallic materials will continue to play a crucial role in shaping the world around us.

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