All things around us are made of atoms. The clothes we wear, the buildings welive in, the air around us, even our own bodies. Atoms are the microscopicbuilding blocks of every solid, liquid or gas. If all the atoms in a substance are thesame type - it is called an element. This means it cannot be broken down intoany "ingredients". Oxygen (chemical symbol O) is a pure element. Oxygen isoxygen - it is not made up of anything else. If a substance contains more thanone element, it is either a compound or a mixture. We will discuss these later, for now let's stick to elements.We said before that elements have no "ingredients" - but actually they do. Even atiny atom is built of smaller building blocks. All atoms are built of 3 basic things :
.The simplest atom is Hydrogen. A hydrogen atom is built of one proton and oneelectron. The proton sits in the centre of the atom and forms the
of hydrogen. The electron spins around the nucleus - a bit like a moon orbiting aplanet. Hydrogen, as you can see in the diagram below, does not have anyneutrons. Larger atoms have many protons and neutrons in their nucleus, andhave many orbiting electrons.
So why doesn't the electron just spin off ? Why does it stay orbiting thenucleus?
The answer is that the electron is attracted to the nucleus because of its 'charge'.Electrons have a negative charge and protons have a positive charge (neutronsdo not have a charge). Opposite charges attract each other.
Need help to understand charge attraction? This is why clothing taken from thedrying machine 'clings'. A static charge is formed when the clothing rubs together in the machine, and this builds up a negative charge. The negative clothing isthen attracted to more positively charged things around it.
The force caused by the spinning, which should cause the electron to spin off away from the nucleus, is balanced by the charge force attracting the electrontowards the nucleus. So it doesn't fly off OR cling to the nucleus, it spins aroundbeing pulled equally in both directions.