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Structure of the Atom

Bewick

CK-12 Foundation is a non-prot organization with a mission to reduce the cost of textbook materials for the K-12 market both in the U.S. and worldwide. Using an open-content, web-based collaborative model termed the FlexBook, CK-12 intends to pioneer the generation and distribution of high-quality educational content that will serve both as core text as well as provide an adaptive environment for learning, powered through the FlexBook Platform. Copyright 2011 CK-12 Foundation, www.ck12.org Except as otherwise noted, all CK-12 Content (including CK-12 Curriculum Material) is made available to Users in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution/Non-Commercial/Share Alike 3.0 Unported (CC-by-NC-SA) License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/), as amended and updated by Creative Commons from time to time (the CC License), which is incorporated herein by this reference. Specic details can be found at http://www.ck12.org/terms. Printed: June 28, 2011

Author
Sharon Bewick

Contributor
Ryan Graziani

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Contents
1 Structure of the Atom 1.1 Atomic Terminology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 1

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Chapter 1 Structure of the Atom


1.1 Atomic Terminology
Lesson Objectives
Describe the properties of electrons, protons, and neutrons. Dene and use an atoms atomic number (Z) and mass number (A). Dene an isotope, and explain how isotopes aect an atoms mass, and an elements atomic mass.

Introduction
Daltons Atomic Theory explained a lot about matter, chemicals, and chemical reactions. Nevertheless, it wasnt entirely accurate, because contrary to what Dalton believed, atoms can, in fact, be broken apart into smaller subunits or subatomic particles. One type of subatomic particle found in an atom is the negatively charged electron. Since atoms are neutral, though, they also have to contain positive material. At rst, scientists werent sure exactly what this positive material was, or how it existed in the atom. Thomson thought it was distributed throughout the atom like batter in a plum pudding. Rutherford, however, showed that this was not the case. In his Gold Foil experiment, Rutherford proved that the positive substance in an atom was concentrated in a small area at the center of the atom, leaving most the rest of the atom as empty space (possibly with a few electrons, or an electron cloud). Both Thomsons experiments and Rutherfords experiments answered a lot of questions, but they also raised a lot of questions, and scientists wanted to know more. How were the electrons connected to the rest of the atom? What was the positive material at the center of the atom like? Was it one giant clump of positive mass, or could it be divided into smaller parts as well? In this lesson, well look at the atom a little more closely.

Electrons, Protons, and Neutrons


The atom is composed of three dierent kinds of subatomic particles. First, there are the electrons, which weve already talked about, and which J. J. Thomson discovered. Electrons have a negative charge. As a result they are attracted to positive objects, and repelled from negative objects, which means that they actually repel each other (Figure 1.1). Still, most atoms have more than one electron. Thats because atoms are big enough to hold many electrons

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Figure 1.1: Electrons repel each other because they are both negatively charged. without those electrons ever colliding with each other. As you might expect, the bigger the atom, the more electrons it contains. Protons are another type of subatomic particle found in atoms. Protons have a positive charge. As a result they are attracted to negative objects, and repelled from positive objects. Again, this means that protons repel each other (Figure 1.2). Unlike electrons, however, which manage to stake out a territory and defend it from other electrons, protons are bound together by what are termed strong nuclear forces. Therefore, even though they repel each other, protons are forced to group together into one big clump. This clump of protons helps to form the nucleus of the atom. Remember, the nucleus of the atom is the mass of positive charge at the atoms center.

Figure 1.2: Protons repel each other because they are both positively charged. Despite this repulsion, protons are bound together in the atomic nucleus as a result of the strong nuclear force. Electrons were the rst subatomic particles discovered and protons were the second. Theres a third kind of subatomic particle, though, known as a neutron, which wasnt discovered until much later. As you might have already guessed from its name, the neutron is neutral. In other words, it has no charge whatsoever, and is therefore neither attracted to nor repelled from other objects. Thats part of the reason why the neutron wasnt discovered until long after people knew about electrons and protons because it has no charge, its really hard to detect. Neutrons are in every atom (with one exception), and theyre bound together with other neutrons and protons in the atomic nucleus. Again, the binding forces that help to keep neutrons fastened into the nucleus are known as strong nuclear forces. Before we move on, we must discuss how the dierent types of subatomic particles interact with each other. When it comes to neutrons, the answer is obvious. Since neutrons are neither attracted to, nor repelled from objects, they dont really interact with protons or electrons (beyond being bound into the nucleus with the protons). Protons and electrons, however, do interact. Using what you know about protons and electrons, what do you think will happen when an electron approaches a proton - will the two subatomic www.ck12.org

particles be attracted to each other, or repelled from each other? Heres a hint: opposites attract, likes repel. Electrons and protons have opposite charges (one negative, the other positive), so youd expect them to be attracted to each other and thats exactly what happens (Figure 1.3).

Figure 1.3: Protons and electrons are attracted to each other because they have opposite charges. Protons are positively charged, while electrons are negatively charged.

Viewers journey inside the atom to appreciate its architectural beauty and grasp how atomic structure determines chemical behavior. Video on Demand The World of Chemistry The Atom (http://www.learner.org/vod/vo window.html?pid=798)

Relative Mass and Charge


Even though electrons, protons, and neutrons are all types of subatomic particles, they are not all the same size. When you compare the masses of electrons, protons and neutrons, what you nd is that electrons have an extremely small mass, compared to either protons or neutrons. On the other hand, the masses of protons and neutrons are fairly similar, although technically, the mass of a neutron is slightly larger than the mass of a proton. Because protons and neutrons are so much more massive than electrons, almost all of the atomic mass in any atom comes from the nucleus, which contains all of the neutrons and protons. Table 1.1: Masses of the Dierent Subatomic Particles Mass in Grams (g) Electron Proton Neutron 9.109383 1028 1.6726217 1024 1.6749273 1024 Mass in Atomic Mass Units (amu) 5.485799095 104 1.0072764669 1.0086649156

Table 1.1 gives the masses of electrons, protons, and neutrons. The second column shows the masses of the three subatomic particles in grams (which is related to the SI unit kilograms according to the relationship 1 kg = 1000 g). The third column, however, shows the masses of the three subatomic particles in atomic mass units. Atomic mass units (amu) are useful, because, as you can see, the mass of a proton and the mass of a neutron are almost exactly 1.0 in this unit system. Well discuss atomic mass units in a later

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section. Unfortunately, the numbers in Table 1.1 probably dont give you a very good sense of just how big protons and neutrons are compared to electrons, so heres a comparison that might help. If an electron were the size of a penny, then a proton (or a neutron) would be about the size of a large bowling ball (Figure 1.4).

Figure 1.4: Electrons are much smaller than protons or neutrons. How much smaller? If an electron was the size of a penny, a proton or a neutron would have the mass of a large bowling ball! Obviously, if you were told to lift a box containing several bowling balls and several pennies, you wouldnt really care about the pennies, because they wouldnt change the weight of the box all that much. What youd want to know, though, would be the number of bowling balls in the box. Thats exactly what happens when scientists try to gure out the masses of atoms. They dont really care how many electrons the atoms have (because electrons are like pennies), but they do care how many protons and neutrons the atoms have (because protons and neutrons are like bowling balls). In addition to mass, another important property of subatomic particles is their charge. You already know that neutrons are neutral, and thus have no charge at all. Therefore, we say that neutrons have a charge of zero. What about electrons and protons? You know that electrons are negatively charged and protons are positively charged, but whats amazing is that the positive charge on a proton is exactly equal in magnitude (magnitude means absolute value or size when you ignore positive and negative signs) to the negative charge on an electron. Table 1.2 gives the charges on electrons, protons, and neutrons. The second column shows the charges of the three subatomic particles in the SI unit of Coulombs (a Coulomb is a unit that we use to measure charge, just like a kilogram is a unit that we use to measure mass, and a meter is a unit that we use to measure distance). The third column, however, shows the charges of the three subatomic particles using elementary charge units* or elementary charges. Elementary charge units (e) are appealing, because the charge on a proton and the charge on an electron are exactly 1.0 in this unit system. Table 1.2: Charges on the Dierent Subatomic Particles Charge in Coulombs (C) Electron Proton Neutron 1.6021765 1019 1.6021765 1019 0 Mass in Elementary Charges (e) 1 1 0

Notice that whether you use Coulombs or elementary charge units, when you ignore the positive and negative signs, the charge on the proton and the charge on the electron have the same magnitude. Previously, you learned that negative and positive charges of equal magnitude cancel each other out. This www.ck12.org

means that the negative charge on an electron perfectly balances the positive charge on the proton. In other words, a neutral atom must have exactly one electron for every proton. If a neutral atom has 1 proton, it must have 1 electron. If a neutral atom has 2 protons, it must have 2 electrons. If a neutral atom has 10 protons, it must have 10 electrons. You get the idea. In order to be neutral, an atom must have the same number of electrons and protons, but what kinds of numbers are we talking about? Thats what well look at in the next section. Most scientists dont refer to elementary charges as a unit. Nevertheless, if you treat elementary charges just like youd treat any another non-SI unit, like a pound (lb) or a foot (ft), they become a lot easier to understand.

Atomic Number (Z) Identies the Element


How do you tell the dierence between a bike and a car? What about the dierence between a car and a unicycle? Take a look at Figure 1.5.

Figure 1.5: A unicycle, three examples of cars, and 2 examples of bikes. Can you think of some rule that might allow you to tell all unicycles, cars and bikes apart? If you had to make a rule to distinguish between a unicycle, a bike, a car, what would it be? You cant use color, because dierent cars can be dierent colors and, even worse, a car can be the same color as a bike or unicycle. The same goes for weight. While most cars would weigh more than most bikes, which would weigh more than most unicycles, that isnt always the case. In fact, that the little grey Smart Car in Figure 1.5 probably weighs less than a large motorbike.

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What you really need to distinguish between a car, a bike and a unicycle is a property that is the same within each category, but dierent between the categories. A good choice would be the number of wheels. All unicycles have one wheel, all bikes have two wheels, and all cars have four wheels. If you count wheels, you will most likely never confuse a unicycle with a bike, or a bike with a car (even a motorbike with a Smart Car!). In other words, if you know the number of wheels, you know which type of vehicle youre dealing with. Just as we can tell between cars, bikes, and unicycles by counting the number of wheels, scientists can tell between dierent elements (remember, an element is a specic type of atom) by counting the number of protons. If a vehicle has only one wheel, we know its a unicycle. If an atom has only one proton, we know its a hydrogen atom or, said dierently, its an atom of the element hydrogen. Similarly, a vehicle with two wheels is always a bike, just like an atom with two protons is always a helium atom, or an atom of the element helium. When we count four wheels on a vehicle, we know its a car, and when scientists count four protons in an atom, they know its a beryllium atom, or an atom of the element beryllium. The list goes on: an atom with three protons is a lithium atom, an atom with ve protons is a boron atom, an atom with six protons is a carbon atom. . . in fact, we have names for atoms containing everything from 1 proton all the way up to 117 protons. So far, the maximum number of protons scientists have been able to pack into a single atom is 117, and thus there are 117 known elements. (On Earth, only atoms with a maximum of 92 protons occur naturally.)

Figure 1.6: You can Since an atom of one element can be distinguished from an atom of another element by the number of protons in its nucleus, scientists are always interested in this number, and how this number diers between dierent elements (Figure 1.6). Therefore, scientists give this number a special name and a special symbol. An elements atomic number (Z) is equal to the number of protons in the nuclei of any of its atoms. The atomic number for hydrogen is Z = 1, because every hydrogen atom has 1 proton. The atomic number for helium is Z = 2 because every helium atom has 2 protons. Whats the atomic number of carbon?

Mass Number (A) is the Sum of Protons and Neutrons


In the last section we learned that each type of atom or element has a specic number of protons. This specic number was called the elements atomic number. Of course, since neutral atoms have to have one electron for every proton, an elements atomic number also tells you how many electrons are in a neutral atom of that element. For example, hydrogen has atomic number Z = 1. This means that an atom of hydrogen has one proton, and, if its neutral, one electron as well. Gold, on the other hand, has atomic www.ck12.org

number Z = 79, which means that an atom of gold has 79 protons if its neutral, and 79 electrons as well. So we know the number of protons, and we know the number of electrons, but what about the third type of subatomic particle? What about the number of neutrons in an atom? The number of neutrons in an atom isnt important for determining atomic number; in fact, it doesnt even tell you which type of atom (or which element) you have. The number of neutrons is important, though, if you want to nd a quantity known as the mass number (A). The mass number of any atom is dened as the sum of the protons and neutrons in the atom: mass numberA = (number of protons) + (number of neutrons) An atoms mass number is a very easy to calculate provided you know the number of protons and neutrons in an atom Example 1: What is the mass number of an atom that contains 3 protons and 4 neutrons? Solution: (number of protons) = 3 (number of neutrons) = 4 mass number, A = (number of protons) + (number of neutrons) mass number, A = (3) + (4) mass numberA = 7 Example 2: What is the mass number of an atom of helium that contains 2 neutrons? Solution: (number of protons) = 2 Remember that an atom of helium always has 2 protons. (number of neutrons) = 2 mass number, A = (number of protons) + (number of neutrons) mass number, A = (2) + (2) mass numberA = 4 Why do you think that the mass number includes protons and neutrons, but not electrons? You have already learned that the mass of an electron is very, very small compared to the mass of either a proton or a neutron (like the mass of a penny compared to the mass of a bowling ball). Counting the number of protons and neutrons tells scientists about the total mass of an atom, but counting the number of electrons would only confuse things. Think of it this way youre asked to lift a box containing some bowling balls and some pennies, but the box has already been taped closed. Now, if you have to decide whether or not to get help lifting the box, which would you prefer to know, the total number of bowling balls and pennies, or the just the total number of bowling balls (Figure 1.7)? Suppose you were told only the number of bowling balls. If you knew that there were 20 bowling balls in the box, you wouldnt lift the box on your own, but if you knew that there was only 1, you probably would, even if that box contained 19 pennies that you didnt know about. On the other hand, if, instead of being told the number of bowling balls, you were told the number bowling balls and pennies, your decision would be more diicult. What if you were given the number 20? That could mean 20 bowling balls and no pennies, or it could mean 1 bowling ball and 19 pennies. In

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fact, it could even mean 20 pennies. Unfortunately, you would have no way of knowing what was meant by the number 20. Certainly, you wouldnt choose to lift 20 bowling balls, but lifting 20 pennies would be no problem. Just like you wouldnt care about the number of pennies in the box you were about to lift, scientists dont care about the number of electrons when they calculate the mass number. Thats why the mass number is only the sum of the protons and neutrons in the atom.

Figure 1.7: Each of the boxes above contains a total of

Isotopes Have Varying Numbers of Neutrons


If you were reading the last section carefully, youll already know that you cant use the number of neutrons in an atom to decide which type of atom (or which element) you have. Unlike the number of protons, which is always the same in atoms of the same element, the number of neutrons can be dierent, even in atoms of the same element. Atoms of the same element, containing the same number of protons, but dierent numbers of neutrons are known as isotopes. Since the isotopes of any given element all contain the same number of protons, they have the same atomic number (for example, the atomic number of helium is always 2). However, since the isotopes of a given element contain dierent numbers of neutrons, dierent isotopes have dierent mass numbers. The following two examples should help to clarify this point. Example 3: What is the atomic number (Z), and the mass number of an isotope of lithium containing 3 neutrons. A lithium atom contains 3 protons in its nucleus. Solution:

atomic numberZ = (number of protons) = 3 (number of neutrons) = 3 mass number, A = (number of protons) + (number of neutrons) mass number, A = (3) + (3) mass number, A = 6

Example 4: What is the atomic number (Z), and the mass number of an isotope of lithium containing 4 neutrons. A lithium atom contains 3 protons in its nucleus. Solution: www.ck12.org

atomic numberZ = (number of protons) = 3 (number of neutrons) = 4 mass number, A = (number of protons) + (number of neutrons) mass number, A = (3) + (4) mass number, A = 7 Notice that because the lithium atom always has 3 protons, the atomic number for lithium is always Z = 3. The mass number, however, is A = 6 in the isotope with 3 neutrons, and A = 7 in the isotope with 4 neutrons. In nature, only certain isotopes exist. For instance, lithium exists as an isotope with 3 neutrons, and as an isotope with 4 neutrons, but it doesnt exists as an isotope with 2 neutrons, or as an isotope with 5 neutrons. Scientists can make isotopes of lithium with 2 or 5 neutrons, but they arent very stable (they fall apart easily), so they dont exist outside of the laboratory.

Atomic Information in the Periodic Table


Most scientists dont want to have to calculate the atomic mass of an element every time they do an experiment. Nor do they want to memorize the number of protons, or the atomic number, of each of the 117 elements that have been discovered. As a result, this information is stored in the periodic table. Figure 1.8 shows a periodic table that contains more detail than the periodic table you saw back in Chapter 1. Notice that each box still contains the symbol (a capital letter or a capital letter followed by a lower case letter) for one of the elements, but now there are two new numbers that have been added to each square, one number above the elements symbol, and another number below the elements symbol. The number above the elements symbol in each square is the elements atomic number. Just as you learned previously, hydrogen (symbol H) has atomic number Z = 1, helium (symbol He) has atomic number Z = 2, lithium (symbol Li) has atomic number Z = 3, beryllium (symbol Be) has atomic number Z = 4, boron (symbol B) has atomic number Z = 5, and carbon (symbol C) has atomic number Z = 6. The number below the elements symbol in each square is the elements atomic mass. Notice that atomic mass of boron (symbol B) is 10.8, which is what we calculated in example 5, and the atomic mass of neon (symbol Ne) is 20.18, which is what we calculated in example 6. Observe how compactly the periodic table stores and presents a large amount of information about each element. Take time to notice that not all periodic tables have the atomic number above the elements symbol and the mass number below it. If you are ever confused, remember that the atomic number (Z) should always be the smaller of the two, while the atomic mass should always be the larger of the two. (The average mass must include both the number of protons (Z) and the average number of neutrons). You may listen to Tom Lehrers humorous song The Elements with animation at The Element Song (http://www.privatehand.com/ash/elements.html)

Lesson Summary
Electrons are a type of subatomic particle with a negative charge. As a result, electrons repel each other, but are attracted to protons.

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Figure 1.8: A periodic table showing both the atomic number (Z) of each element and the mass number (A) of each element.

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Protons are a type of subatomic particle with a positive charge. As a result, protons repel each other, but are attracted to electrons. Protons are bound together in an atoms nucleus as a result of the strong nuclear force. Neutrons are a type of subatomic particle with no charge (theyre neutral). Like protons, neutrons are bound into the atoms nucleus as a result of the strong nuclear force. Protons and neutrons have approximately the same mass, but they are both much more massive than electrons (approximately 2, 000 times as massive as an electron). The positive charge on a proton is equal in magnitude (size when you ignore positive and negative signs) to the negative charge on an electron. As a result, a neutral atom must have an equal number of protons and electrons. Each element has a unique number of protons. An elements atomic number (Z) is equal to the number of protons in the nuclei of any of its atoms. The mass number (A) of an atom is the sum of the protons and neutrons in the atom mass number A = (number of protons) + (number of neutrons) Isotopes are atoms of the same element (same number of protons) that have dierent numbers of neutrons in their atomic nuclei. An elements atomic mass is the average mass of one atom of that element. An elements atomic mass can be calculated provided the relative abundances of the elements naturally occurring isotopes, and the masses of those isotopes are known. The periodic table is a convenient way to summarize information about the dierent elements. In addition to the elements symbol, most periodic tables will also contain the elements atomic number (Z), and elements atomic mass.

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