What are Non-Metallic Materials? Their Examples, Characteristics, & Applications (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, nonmetallic 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 the properties, examples, applications, types, and characteristics of non-metallic materials.

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, basically, 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. The common non-metals are:

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

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 we 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.

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)

Advantages of Non-Metallic Materials

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

  • 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 Favourable Properties: Nonmetallic materials possess various favorable properties for application in certain uses. Low conductivity, high corrosion resistance, etc are favorable for some applications.
  • Non-metallic materials usually do not need post-production treatments like metallic elements.

Metallic vs 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.
Nonmetallic vs Metallic Materials

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Anup Kumar Dey

A Mechanical Engineer with 19 years of working experience in various renowned MNCs.

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