How are elements identified by using a flame test? A metal salt is a compound of a metal and a nonmetal. When dissolved in water, the metal and nonmetal atoms separate into charged particles called ions. As the metal ion is heated by the flame, the electrons gain energy and move to outer orbitals. When the metal ion cools, the electrons go back to their original orbital and release energy in the form of light. Are these colors a characteristic of the metal? In this virtual investigation you will burn a small amount of various metal salt solutions and record the colors of the flames. From your results, you will draw conclusions about the colors released from heated metal ions. You will also test an unknown metal salt and determine what metal is present.