|Introductory Chemistry||© David W. Ball ; contributors: Hawar Haider, Maria del Mar Jimenez Quesada, Tatyana Sobolyeva, Oi Mi Lam et al. Source: Flat World Knowledge|
The smallest component of an element that uniquely defines the identity of that element is called an atom . Individual atoms are extremely small. It would take about fifty million atoms in a row to make a line that is 1 cm long. The period at the end of a printed sentence has several million atoms in it.
The concept that atoms play a fundamental role in chemistry is formalized by the modern atomic theory , first proposed by John Dalton, an English scientist, in 1803. It consists of three parts:
All matter is made up of atoms. Atoms cannot be divided, created or destroyed
All atoms of the same element are identical. Different elements have different types of atoms
Chemical reactions occur when atoms are rearranged. Compounds are formed from atoms of the constituent elements.
These concepts form the basis of chemistry.
Although the word atom comes from a Greek word that means indivisible, we understand now that atoms themselves are composed of smaller parts called subatomic particles . The first part to be discovered was the electron , a tiny subatomic particle with a negative charge. It is often represented as e - , with the right superscript showing the negative charge. Later, two larger particles were discovered. The proton is a larger (but still tiny) subatomic particle with a positive charge, represented as p + . The neutron is a subatomic particle with about the same mass as a proton but no charge. It is represented as either n or n 0 . We now know that all atoms of all elements are composed of electrons, protons, and (with one exception) neutrons. Table 3.1 summarizes the properties of these three subatomic particles.
Table 3.1. Properties of the Three Subatomic Particles
|Name||Symbol||Mass (approx.; kg)||Charge|
|Proton||p +||1.6 x 10 -27||1+|
|Neutron||n, n 0||1.6 x 10 -27||none|
|Electron||e -||9.1 x 10 -31||1-|
Later in 1910, experiments by Ernest Rutherford in England pointed to a nuclear model of the atom. The relatively massive protons and neutrons are collected in the center of the atom, in a very small region called the nucleus of the atom (plural nuclei ). The electrons are rotating in shells orbiting the nucleus. (See Figure 3.1. The Structure of the Atom .)
Figure 3.1. The Structure of the Atom
Atoms have protons and neutrons in the center, making the nucleus positively charged, while the negatively charged electrons orbit the nucleus.
The modern atomic theory states that atoms of one element are the same, while atoms of different elements are different. What makes atoms of different elements different? The fundamental characteristic that all atoms of the same element share is the number of protons . All atoms of hydrogen have one and only one proton in the nucleus; all atoms of iron have 26 protons in the nucleus. This number of protons is so important to the identity of an atom that it is called the atomic number of the element. Thus, hydrogen has an atomic number of 1, while iron has an atomic number of 26. Each element has its own characteristic atomic number.
However, atoms of the same element can have different numbers of neutrons. Atoms of the same element (i.e., atoms with the same number of protons) with different numbers of neutrons are called isotopes . Most naturally occurring elements exist as isotopes. For example, most hydrogen atoms have a single proton in their nucleus. However, a small number (about one in a million) of hydrogen atoms have a proton and a neutron in their nuclei. This particular isotope of hydrogen is called deuterium. A very rare form of hydrogen has one proton and two neutrons in the nucleus; this isotope of hydrogen is called tritium. The sum of the number of protons and neutrons in the nucleus is called the mass number of the isotope.
In a neutral atom the number of electrons equals the number of protons, so the overall charge of an atom is zero.
The number of protons in the nucleus of a tin atom is 50, while the number of neutrons in the nucleus is 68. What are the atomic number and the mass number of this isotope?
Atomic number = 50, mass number = 118
When referring to an atom, we simply use the element's name: the term sodium refers to the element as well as an atom of sodium. But it can be unwieldy to use the name of elements all the time. Instead, chemistry defines a symbol for each element. The atomic symbol is a one- or two-letter abbreviation of the name of the element. By convention, the first letter of an element's symbol is always capitalized, while the second letter (if present) is lowercase. Thus, the symbol for hydrogen is H, the symbol for sodium is Na, and the symbol for nickel is Ni. Most symbols come from the English name of the element, although some symbols come from an element's Latin name. (The symbol for Sodium, Na, comes from its Latin name, Natrium .) Table 3.2.lists some common elements and their symbols. You should memorize the symbols in Table 3.2. Names and Symbols of Common Elements , as this is how we will be representing elements throughout chemistry.
Table 3.2. Names and Symbols of Common Elements
|Element Name||Symbol||Element Name||Symbol|
The elements are grouped together in a special chart called the Periodic Table . A simple Periodic Table is shown in Figure 3.2 , while a more extensive one is presented in Chapter 17, Appendix: Periodic Table of the Elements . The elements on the periodic table are listed in order of ascending atomic number. The periodic table has a special shape that will become important to us when we consider the organization of electrons in atoms (see
Figure 3.2. A Simple Periodic Table
There is an easy way to represent isotopes using the atomic symbols. We use the construction
where X is the symbol of the element, A is the mass number, and Z is the atomic number. Thus, for the isotope of carbon that has 6 protons and 6 neutrons, the symbol is
where C is the symbol for the element, 6 represents the atomic number, and 12 represents the mass number.
It is also common to state the mass number after the name of an element to indicate a particular isotope. Carbon-12 represents an isotope of carbon with 6 protons and 6 neutrons, while uranium-238 is an isotope of uranium that has 146 neutrons.
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