Base Metal: Definition & Types

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

Base metals might sound boring, but they don't have to be. In this lesson, you'll learn the names of many base metals as well as some cool tidbits about a few of them.

Base Metals

Bass players are often the less famous and less 'precious' companions of lead guitarists in a band. Base metals are the same. They're the non-precious metals. In other words, they're not superstar metals like silver, gold, or platinum. Funny how those same metal names are used to certify album sales.

Anyway, base metals are kind of boring in some sense, but they're no less important than precious metals. You'll find examples of what they are in this lesson, as we review several different types in detail and list many others for your reference.

Copper & Thallium

One pretty well-known base metal is copper, which is of a copper color. Shocking, right? Copper comes to us from the Latin word 'cuprum', which implies 'a metal from Cyprus,' a small and divided island nation in the Mediterranean Sea. Copper is a good conductor of electricity and heat, and is thus found in wiring, including what's used in your home. It's also used for making roofs and in making pipes for plumbing.

A lot of copper ore deposits are found in Canada, the U.S., and Chile, among other places. Copper is found in every coin used in the U.S. Last, but definitely not least, your body needs trace amounts of copper to function properly.

Copper wires
Copper wire

While you need copper to function properly, you definitely don't need, or want thallium for your health. Thallium is a very toxic metal that can poison a person and may even cause cancer. Owing to its dangerous potential, thallium has been used as a rodenticide (rat killer/poison) in the past. Today, it's mainly used to help manufacture various specialized types of glass, like those that melt at low temperatures, or glass with a high index of refraction. It's also used in the manufacture of photoelectric cells. Thallium is a very soft metal that has a metallic luster. However, after it's exposed to air, it becomes bluish-gray in color.

Lead & Iron

Lead is another type of base metal. Like thallium, it's dangerous to human health. Lead has been used throughout much of recorded human history for all sorts of purposes. It was used in alchemy, and to build water pipes. Actually, lead Roman pipes are still being used to this day in some places. Lead has also been used to make paint, anti-knocking additives for fuel, and in pewter, a type of metal allow that contains chiefly tin.

Today you can find lead in car batteries, some stained glass windows, roofing material, cable sheathing, and even in some solders.


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