Structure of an Atom

Structure of Atoms

Atoms are the building blocks of the universe; they make up everything you see around you. But what makes up an atom?

At the very center of an atom is the nucleus, which is made up of small particles called protons and neutrons. Protons are very small, positively-charged particles, and neutrons are neutral particles that have no charge.

Atoms can have just one proton or they can have multiple. A group of atoms that all have the exact same number of protons are called an element. For example, hydrogen is an element with one proton in the nucleus and carbon is an element with 6 protons.

In general, an atom will have a specific number of neutrons in the nucleus, meaning the atom won’t lose or gain any neutrons for a very long time. This is called a stable atom. Usually, a stable atom has an equal number of neutrons and protons, but there are exceptions. To find the mass number of an element you add the number of protons and neutrons together, so protons + neutrons = mass number. This gives us names like Carbon-12 or Carbon-14, which are types of carbon atoms used in carbon dating!

Orbiting the atom’s positively-charged center are particles with a negative charge called electrons. The electrons are attracted to the positive nucleus, but they can escape their orbit by an outside force.

Atoms have a certain number of electrons orbiting the nucleus. If the number of electrons is equal to the number of protons, the overall electric charge of the atom is neutral. If the atom has more electrons than protons, its charge will be negative. With fewer electrons than protons, the atom will have a positive charge.

The electrons determine how atoms interact with each other. Atoms can share electrons to form molecules, which are particles made up of many atoms. Water is made up of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. These three atoms share electrons.

Now that we have talked about the different parts of the atom, let’s summarize a few properties of atoms. Atoms have an atomic number, which is the number of protons in the nucleus. The periodic table arranges atoms in increasing atomic number. The charge of an atom is calculated based on the difference between the number of protons in the nucleus and the number of electrons orbiting the nucleus.

Here’s a quick review:

An atom is made up of protons, electrons, and neutrons. The number of electrons will determine how atoms interact with one another and decide if the atom as a whole is positive, negative, or neutral. The mass number of an atom is found by adding together the number of protons and neutrons. And finally, the charge of an atom is determined by the number of protons and electrons in the atom.

Thank you so much for watching, and see you guys next time!

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by Mometrix Test Preparation | Last Updated: August 15, 2019