Kid's Chemistry: The Atom and All Its Parts!
Back in ancient Greece, becoming a scientist was not all that different from becoming a philosopher. Both were attempting to answer the basic questions of human existence. Both sought to answer questions about what it is to be human and what our minds and bodies are made of. A man who lived in Ancient Greece, by the name of Democritus, was considered first and foremost a philosopher, yet he made perhaps the most important discovery in the history of science. Actually, it was less of a discovery than an idea. He came up with the idea for what was eventually called “the building block of life.” He was the first person to consider the idea of the atom. So what is an atom?
Atoms are defined as the building blocks. Atoms are what make up everything in existence. They are not, however, the smallest thing in existence. The atom is made up of parts, including protons, neutrons, and electrons. As you will learn, the smallest part of the atom, is the electron.
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The nucleus is the center of the atom, around which, the electrons orbit. It contains neutrons, which have no electrical charge, and protons, which carry a positive charge. Because of this fact, the nucleus is positively charged. Almost all of the weight of the atom is contained within the nucleus, with neutrons weighing about as much as protons, and protons being much heavier than electrons.
A proton has a positive electrical charge, which, for reasons which will become clear in the electrons section, makes them attracted to electrons. These protons are located in the nucleus and are about the same weight as neutrons, which are also located within the nucleus. While neutrons and protons weigh roughly the same, protons weigh approximately 1840 times more than an electron. The number of protons in an atom determines the element the atom is (such as hydrogen and helium).
Electrons are locate within the electron cloud. In terms of mass, the electron cloud has less than that of the nucleus. In terms of volume, however, it takes up the most. Electrons are negatively charged, which makes them electrically attracted to protons. This attraction enables electrons to orbit around the nucleus of the atom.
Now that you know about the parts of the atom, you can learn about:
Matter – Occurring in four different states (solids, liquids, gases, and plasma) the term matter is used for any type of material. This material does not have to be tangible (able to be touched), because air is also matter.
Gas – The result of solids or liquids being heated, gas is a state of matter in which particles with neither a definite shape nor volume exist. Atoms can move much faster in gases than in liquids and solids.
Liquid – Another state of matter, liquid, like gas, does not have a definite shape, as it will take on the shape of its container or environment. Liquid does, however, have definite volume.
Solid – Another state of matter, solids are characterized by their definite shape and volume. Atoms within a solid have little freedom of movement and are close together.
Isotope – Consisting of the same amount of protons but different number of neutrons within a nucleus, isotopes are two forms of the same element. Examples include Carbon-12 and Carbon 14.
Ion – An atom that has a positive or negative charge because of the loss or acquisition of an electron.
Ionic Bond – The kind of bond which is the result of one atom being removed and attached to another. The result of this action is the existence of positive and negative bonds being attracted to one another.
Element – a substance which is defined by how many protons it possesses and cannot be broken down into smaller parts through the use of chemical means.
Compounds – Formed when two or more elements join together through ionic or covalent bonds, examples of compounds are water (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), and methane (CH4).
Atomic Mass Unit – The term used for measuring the weight of an atom. AMU is also called a Dalton (Da).
Molecule – Formed when two or more atoms combine chemically, molecules differ from compounds because they are formed when two of the same atoms join together. Examples include hydrogen (H2), oxygen (O2), and nitrogen (N2).
Periodic Table of Elements – A way of arranging the elements in an effort to predict their properties based on their location on the table.
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Written By: Edson Farnell | Email |