Types Of Atoms

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Many people might think atoms and elements are the same. However, atoms and elements do have a few differences when you start breaking it down. The main difference is elements are made of atoms. Learn other differences between atoms and elements by dissecting these two terms. Explore examples of elements and atoms.

Types Of Atoms In Ionic Bonds

Isotopes: Different Types of Atoms Atoms in a chemical element that have different numbers of neutrons than protons and electrons are called isotopes. The atoms in a particular element have an identical number of protons and electrons but can have varying numbers of neutrons. Hydrogen is a common element on earth. Because like all things in the world, elements and molecules are both made of atoms. You know elements are all the different types of atoms on the periodic table. Molecules are what you get when those atoms are combined. Unlike elements, molecules can be made from the same or different elements. Which correctly lists the types of matter, in terms of their atoms, in order from least tightly packed to most tightly packed? Solid, gas, liquid solid, - 15559207.

diagram difference between an atom and element

What Is an Atom?

You might have heard the term atom thrown around in chemistry. And, there's a good reason for that; it’s extremely important. Every compound, molecule, or element you come across will be made of atoms. For example, humans are made of atoms. Air is made of atoms. Your computer… made of atoms. Everything is made of atoms.

This is why you can’t begin to understand the difference between atoms and elements without first understanding what an atom is and what it’s made of. Simply put, atoms are the building blocks of elements. They are some of the smallest bits of what you would call ordinary matter.

Structure of an Atom

Like everything else, atoms have a few different things floating around inside of them. These subatomic particles include:

  • neutrons - with no charge
  • protons - positively charged
  • electrons - negatively charged

The protons and neutrons are in the atomic nucleus of the atom, while the electrons orbit the atomic nucleus. Think of this as similar to the way the planets all orbit the sun. That’s an atom in a nutshell. Well, if a nutshell was orbited by lots of little electrons, that is.

What Is an Element?

With atoms out of the way, it’s time to look at elements. If you’ve ever seen a Periodic Table of Elements, then you probably have some idea of what elements are. But to break it down into a simple definition, elements are all the different types of atoms we know exist on Earth. They are arranged by their atomic number on the Periodic Table of Elements.

For example, gold is an element. If you were to hold a chunk of pure gold in your hand, you would be holding an element. Other elements include:

  • Hydrogen
  • Boron
  • Carbon
  • Neon
  • Magnesium
  • Silicon
  • Aluminum
  • Chloride
  • Oxygen
  • Calcium

Elements and Atomic Number

What makes something an element is the fact that all the atoms have the same number of protons in the nucleus. While you can find them all on the periodic table, let’s look at the common elements’ mercury and copper.

  • Mercury is an element with 80 protons in its nucleus. It has an atomic number of 80.
  • Copper is made of atoms with 29 protons in the nucleus. Therefore, it has an atomic number of 29.

What Is the Difference Between an Element and a Molecule?

Types of atoms involved

With atoms and elements all cleared up, it’s important to understand the difference between a molecule and an element. Because like all things in the world, elements and molecules are both made of atoms. You know elements are all the different types of atoms on the periodic table. Molecules are what you get when those atoms are combined. Unlike elements, molecules can be made from the same or different elements. The key to a molecule is that two or more atoms are bonded together.

For example, water is a molecule made of hydrogen and oxygen. It’s actually made of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. You can also have molecules of a single atom bonded together like two oxygen atoms. This makes up the oxygen humans breathe.

Difference Between Atoms and Elements

It can be easy to see why elements and atoms get confused because elements are atoms. They are just a group of all the same kind of atoms. All the known elements on Earth can be found in the periodic table of elements.

Science is fun right? Keep the chemistry fun going by exploring the difference between atoms and molecules. You can also have more chemistry fun by reading up on molecules and compounds.

Types

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Types Of Atoms

Atoms & Isotopes; Compounds & Minerals

Atoms are the smallest fraction of an element that can exist, and still show the characteristics of the element. Atoms themselves are composed essentially of electrons (1 negative charge), protons (1 positive charge), and neutrons (no charge). In a simplistic way we can visualize atoms as consisting of a nucleus with protons and neutrons that is surrounded by electrons for charge balance. Atoms of different elements are distinguished by the number of protons in the nucleus. Hydrogen has the simplest (and lightest) atom with just one proton and one electron, and then complexity gradually increases until we get to Uranium with 92 protons, 146 neutrons, and 92 electrons.

Normally the number of electrons equals the number of protons, however an atom mayloose or pick up electrons and have a negative or positive charge, in which case we talkabout ions rather than atoms.


Although the 'planetary' model of the atom as shown above is easy to visualize, reality is a bit stranger. According to a quantum mechanic approach pioneered by Schrödinger, the behavior of electrons can be envisioned as probability functions of wave forms. If the probabilities are plotted in 3D, they look like the animated pictures above. All of the pictures describe electron distribution of a hydrogen atom in various energy states (quantum states, states if 'excitation).

The number of neutrons (the 'glue' between the protons) in the nucleus may also vary within a given element. These varieties of a given atom (same number of protons, different number of neutrons) are called isotopes. The illustration at the left shows three isotopes of hydrogen: 'normal: hydrogen with 1 proton and 1 electron, deuterium, and tritium. Scientists in various laboratories are working to produce controlled fusion of deuterium into helium. If successful, this will be an almost inexhaustable source of energy. Although deuterium constitutes only a small fraction of the hydrogen on Earth (a few liters in every cubic kilometer of ocean water), there is a large volume of ocean water to draw on.

Atoms can join together to form molecules. Most of the substances around us consist of molecules and are called compounds of various elements. Molecules are the smallest particle of a compound that has all the chemical properties of that compound. They are made up of two or more atoms, either of the same element or of two or more different elements. Molecules and compounds contain their constituent elements in specific proportions that are characteristic of the compound. For example, water (H2O), a well known and simple compound, contains hydrogen and oxygen at a ratio of 2 to 1.

The illustration below shows how Lithium and Fluorine combine to form the compound Lithiumfluoride. In essence, Lithium gives up an electron and becomes positively charged, whereas Fluorine picks up this electron and becomes negatively charged. The attraction between the oppositely charged ions causes them to join in a so called ionic bond.

Other types of bonds are the covalent bond (atoms share electrons) andthe metallic bond (atoms are surrounded by an 'electron soup'). Which bond is found in a given compound depends on the elements that are presentand the chemical characteristics of the elements involved.

The materials that make up the Earth crust and mantle are called rocks (there is agreat variety of them), and these rocks are composed of a mixture of pure elements (e.g.diamonds [pure carbon], gold) and various chemical compounds of silica, oxygen, iron,magnesium, aluminum, etc. As said above, each chemical compound shows very specificproportions of elements that it is composed of. These proportions depend on theelectron configuration of the participant elements. One particular thing about thecompounds that compose rocks is that they not only show compound-specific proportions ofelements, but also that each has a compound specific internal arrangement of atoms. Because of this regular arrangement of atoms they are crystalline substances. Wecall this type of compounds minerals. Minerals are the mainbuilding blocks of all rocks.

Types of atoms in ionic bonds

By definition, minerals have the following characteristics:

  • 1) they are natural (not artificial) substances
  • 2) they are solid
  • 3) they form by inorganic processes
  • 4) they have a specific chemical composition
  • 5) they have a characteristic crystal structure
The crystal structure of cooking salt, Sodium Chloride (NaCl).
The structure consists of alternating Sodium ions (positive charge, small black balls), and Chlorine ions (negative charge, large yellow balls). In this case the ions are laid out on rectangular grids, in three dimensions we have a cubic structure. Depending on the relative size of the ions we get different structural angles and structural types.

By above definition, all minerals have a crystalline structure. Not allcrystalline substances, however, are necessarily minerals.Sugar, for example, forms very nice crystals, but it is not a mineral because it is anorganic substance. Minerals are inorganic substances.

Minerals have specific physical properties that are used to distinguish andclassify them. These properties are:

Facts About Atoms For Kids

  • 1) Internal structure (see above)/Crystal Morphology
  • 2) Cleavage (calcite always breaks as rhombs[see below], cooking salt as cubes)
  • 3) Color/Streak
  • 4) Hardness (talc to diamond)
  • 5) Density (PbS is denser than FeS)

Types Of Atoms Involved

These properties are a function of the bond strength, the internal structure, and thechemical composition of the mineral.

Cleavage in Calcite (CaCO3). No matter how often the calcite crystal is broken into smaller and smaller pieces, the resulting fragments always show rhombohedral cleavage. This is so because of the internal arrangement of atoms in the calcite crystal. Cleavage angles are a fundamental property of any given mineral.

Types Of Atoms Involved In Metallic Bonds

A given compound may occur in more than one crystal structure.

The picture on the left shows a diamond and graphite (used in pencils). Both consist of pure carbon (C), but differ markedly in their properties. Graphite is soft, shiny dark gray, and has a layered, sheetlike, internal structure. In contrast, diamond is denser, often transparent, and the hardest substance known to man. The difference lies in the 3D framework structure of diamond that gives it lots of strength and structural integrity (the reason is that diamond forms under the very high pressures of the upper mantle). When a compound can form more than one type of crystal structure it is called polymorphous. Diamond and graphite are polymorphs of carbon.