An interstitial element is an impurity found in "pure" metals. The quantity of these elements affect the physical properties of the metal. They can be introduced during the manufacturing process. The most common interstitial elements are hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen. These elements are small enough to fit between normal crystalline lattice locations. In contrast, those elements that replace locations in the crystalline structure are called substitutional elements.
An example of the effects of interstitial elements can be found in grade 1–4 titanium. Although the grades 1–4 are considered commercially "pure" they have varying tensile strength among other differences. These differences are caused by the amount of interstitial elements present in the titanium.