An atom is the smallest possible unit of a chemical element. In other words, an atom is the smallest part of a chemical element that still has all the properties of that element. Each different chemical element is made up of atoms with a specific number of protons, neutrons, and electrons. An atom is essentially the same thing as a molecule or ion but on a smaller scale. While molecules are made up of two or more atoms bound together, an ion is simply an atom that has gained or lost electrons. In this article, we explore what an atom is, examples of atoms, and different types of atoms.
What Is An Atom Made Of?
Atoms are made up of protons, neutrons, and electrons. A proton is a positively charged subatomic particle with a mass almost 2000 times greater than an electron. The number of protons determines the element of the atom. The number of neutrons also determines the element, but to a lesser degree. Electrons are negatively charged particles that are very lightweight. Different atoms have different numbers of electrons, which determines the number of chemical bonds that can be formed. An atom is made up of mostly space. The electrons are in space but not at a specific point. The protons and neutrons are packed in the space at a specific point, almost touching each other. It is believed that the protons and neutrons are packed together so tightly that they can never be separated.
Examples of Atoms
The first example of an atom is hydrogen, which is 1 proton and 1 electron. The second example of an atom is helium, which is 2 protons, 2 neutrons, and 2 electrons. Hydrogen and helium are both examples of monatomic, or single-atom, elements. Hydrogen and helium are also examples of elements that are considered "light" because their atoms are very small and weigh very little. The third example of an atom is carbon, which is 6 protons, 6 neutrons, and 6 electrons. Carbon is an example of a polyatomic, or multiple atoms, element. A polyatomic element is larger and heavier than a monatomic element. Graphite is an example of a polyatomic element, as it contains many carbon atoms. The fourth example of an atom is oxygen, which is 8 protons, 8 neutrons, and 8 electrons.
Types of Atoms
All elements are made up of atoms, although there are only about 100 naturally occurring elements. Technically, an atom can be described as either a proton or an ion. A proton is a particle that is part of the nucleus of an atom and has a positive charge. An electron is a particle that is part of the electron cloud and has a negative charge. The number of protons in an atom determines the element. The number of electrons determines how many chemical bonds that atom can form. Hydrogen, helium, and lithium are examples of monatomic elements, while carbon, nitrogen, and gold are examples of polyatomic elements.
The Bohr Atom
The Bohr atom is one of the most common models of the atom. This model was created by the Danish physicist Niels Bohr. In the Bohr atom, electrons orbit around the nucleus like planets around the sun. In this atom, electrons in the outer shell of the atom are at their lowest energy state. Electrons in the inner shell of the atom are at higher energy states. When an atom gains or loses energy, the electrons jump between the different energy states. When electrons jump to lower energy states, the atom emits energy. When electrons jump to higher energy states, the atom absorbs energy.
The Rutherford Atom
The Rutherford atom is another model for the atom. This model was created by the British physicist Ernest Rutherford. Rutherford discovered that most of the atom's mass is located in the nucleus, so this model is also known as the nuclear model. In this model, the electrons are distributed around the nucleus like a cloud. When space is filled with electrons, it is described as being full. When an atom gains or loses electrons, it is described as becoming empty. In this model, electrons are distributed evenly throughout the atom. Rutherford discovered that the charge on the atom is concentrated in the nucleus.
The helium atom is the simplest atom that exists. It is made up of 2 protons, 2 neutrons, and 2 electrons. The helium atom is used as a model for other atoms. Helium is a monatomic element and is a good model for other monatomic elements because it is very simple. Hydrogen, another monatomic element, is also used as a model. Hydrogen is a good model for other monatomic elements because it has one electron, which makes it easy to understand.
Atoms are the smallest possible unit of a chemical element. Atoms are the smallest part of the element that still has all the properties of that element. An atom is essentially the same thing as a molecule or ion but on a smaller scale. While molecules are made up of two or more atoms bound together, an ion is simply an atom that has gained or lost electrons. The Bohr atom and the Rutherford atom are two models for the atom. The helium atom is the simplest. Atoms are the basic building blocks of all matter. Thus, understanding atoms is essential to understanding the universe and all things in it.