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Charge It!

Electrons are the


negatively chargedparticles
of atom. Together, all of the
electrons of an atom create
a negativecharge that balances
the positive charge of the
protons in the atomic nucleus.
Electrons are
extremely small compared to all of the other parts of the
atom. The mass of an electron is almost 1,000 times smaller
than the mass of a proton.

Shells and Shapes


Electrons are found in clouds that surround the nucleus of an
atom. Those clouds are specific distances away from
the nucleus and are generally organized into shells. Because
electrons move so quickly, it is impossible to see where they
are at a specific moment in time. After years of
experimentation, scientists discovered specific areas where
electrons are likely to be found. The overall shape of the shells
changes depending on how many electrons an element has.
The higher the atomic number, the more shells and electrons
an atom will have. The overall shell shape will also be more
complex (because of the suborbitals) as you have more
electrons.

Creating Bonds
Electrons play a major role in all
chemicalbonds. There is one
type of bonding
calledelectrovalent bonding
(ionic), where an electron from
one atom is transferred to
another atom. You wind up

creating two ions as one atom loses an electron and one gains
one. The second type of bonding is calledcovalent bonding,
where electrons are actually shared between two or more
atoms in a cloud. Both types of bonds have specific advantages
and weaknesses.

Power Up!
Electrons are very important in the world of electronics.
The very small particles can stream through wires and
circuits, creating currents ofelectricity. The electrons
move from negatively charged parts to positively charged
ones. The negatively charged pieces of any circuit have
extra electrons, while the positively charged pieces want
more electrons. The electrons then jump from one area to
another. When the electrons move, the current
can flow through the system.

Looking at Ions
We've talked about ions before. Now it's
time to get down to basics. The atomic
number of an element, also called
a proton number, tells you the number
of protons or positive particles in
an atom. A normal atom has a neutral charge with equal
numbers of positive and negative particles. That means an
atom with a neutral charge is one where the number
of electrons is equal to the atomic number. Ions are atoms
with extra electrons or missing electrons. When you are
missing an electron or two, you have a positive charge. When
you have an extra electron or two, you
have a negative charge.
What do you do if you are a sodium (Na)
atom? You have eleven electrons one

too many to have an entire shell filled. You need to find


another element that will take that electron away from you.
When you lose that electron, you will youll have full shells.
Whenever an atom has full shells, we say it is "happy." Let's
look at chlorine (Cl). Chlorine has seventeen electrons and
only needs one more to fill its third shell and be "happy."
Chlorine will take your extra sodium electron and leave you
with 10 electrons inside of two filled shells. You are now a
happy atom too. You are also an ion and missing one electron.
That missing electron gives you a positive charge. You are still
the element sodium, but you are now a sodium ion (Na+). You
have one less electron than your atomic number.

Ion Characteristics
So now you've become a
sodium ion. You have ten
electrons. That's the same
number of electrons
as neon (Ne). But you aren't
neon. Since you're missing an
electron, you aren't really a
complete sodium atom either.
As an ion you are now
something completely new. Your whole goal as an atom was to
become a "happy atom" with completely filled electron shells.
Now you have those filled shells. You have a lower energy. You
lost an electron and you are "happy." So what makes you
interesting to other atoms? Now that you have given up the
electron, you are quite electrically attractive. Other electrically
charged atoms (ions) of the opposite charge (negative) are
now looking at you and seeing a good partner to bond with.
That's where the chlorine comes in. It's not only chlorine.
Almost any ion with a negative charge will be interested in
bonding with you.

Electrovalence

Don't get worried about the big word. Electrovalence is just


another word for something that has given up or taken
electrons and become an ion. If you look at the periodic
table, you might notice that elements on the left side usually
become positively charged ions (cations) and elements on the
right side get a negative charge (anions). That trend means
that the left side has a positive valence and the right side has a
negative valence. Valence is a measure of how much an atom
wants to bond with other atoms. It is also a measure of how
many electrons are excited about bonding with other atoms.

There are two main types of


bonding, covalent and electrovalent. You may have heard of
the term "ionic bonds." Ionic bonds are electrovalent bonds.
They are just groups of charged ions held together by electric
forces. Scientists call these groups "ionic agglomerates."
When in the presence of other ions, the electrovalent bonds are
weaker because of outside electrical forces and attractions.
Sodium and chlorine ions alone have a very strong bond, but
as soon as you put those ions in a solution with H+, OH-, F- or
Mg++ ions, there are charged distractions that break the NaCl bond.

Look at sodium chloride (NaCl) one more time. Salt is a


very strong bond when it is sitting on your table. It would
be nearly impossible to break those ionic/electrovalent
bonds. However, if you put that salt into some water
(H2O), the bonds break very quickly. It happens easily
because of the electrical attraction of the water. Now you

have sodium (Na+) and chlorine (Cl-) ions floating around


the solution. You should remember that ionic bonds are
normally strong, but they are very weak in water.