An introduction to minerals and rocks under the microscope
An introduction to minerals and rocks under the microscope

This free course is available to start right now. Review the full course description and key learning outcomes and create an account and enrol if you want a free statement of participation.

Free course

An introduction to minerals and rocks under the microscope

1.4.1 Metallic structures and bonding

Metal crystals are built from layers of densely packed metal cations (atoms that have lost one or more electrons, leaving them positively charged). The ions are organised in regular, close-packed arrangements. In close-packing, a layer of identically sized atoms (or ions) occupies the minimum possible space - like a raft of hard spheres (e.g. marbles) in contact with each other. Each atom has six neighbours in a plane. The three-dimensional structure of a metal involves the successive stacking of close-packed layers on top of each other.

In metallic bonding, atoms donate one or more outer electrons to a free electron 'sea' (Figure 12a), which flows between and around the cations and acts as a kind of glue, holding them together. This kind of bonding is uniform in all directions, so that metallic structures are dense and close-packed. The electron mobility renders metals both malleable and ductile, which are vital properties for producing thin sheets and for stretching out to form thin cables or filaments (e.g. copper wire).

Figure 12 Schematic representation of three types of chemical bonding: (a) metallic bonding; (b) ionic bonding; (c) covalent bonding.
S276_1

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has over 40 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to university level study, find out more about the types of qualifications we offer, including our entry level Access courses and Certificates.

Not ready for University study then browse over 900 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus