Glossary of Atomic Structure Terms and Terminology

  • Atom: The smallest and most minute of all of the components of matter
  • Four states of matter: Solids, liquids, gases and plasma
  • Solids: A state of matter that is not as flexible as the other forms of matter in terms of the compressibility, shape and volume
  • Liquids: A state of matter that can change their shape according to the shape of the container it is poured into.
  • Gas: A state of matter that is compressible and has the ability to change their shape and volume according to the shape and size of the container that it is put into.
  • Plasma: A state of matter that found beyond the earth
  • Atom: The smallest component and the most basic part of matter that still retains its identity
  • Atomic structure: Atoms have a nucleus and electrons. Its nucleus contains protons and neutrons
  • Nucleus: The part of the atom that houses the protons and the neutrons
  • Protons: The positively charged (+) components of the atom. It is the number of protons that give the atom its chemical identity
  • Neutrons: The part of the atom that has no charge; they are neutral and without a positive or negative electrical charge; the part of the atom that gives the atom its isotope identity.
  • Electrons: The part of the atom that have a negative (-) charge.
  • Ion: An electrically charged atom
  • Cation: A positively charged atom
  • Anion: A negatively charged atom
  • The Periodic Table of Elements: Developed by the Russian chemist Mendeleev in the mid-1800s to display all known elements

Matter

Simply stated, an atom is the smallest and minutest of all of the components of matter. There are four states of matter.

Matter is defined as all:

  1. Solids
  2. Liquids
  3. Gases
  4. Plasma

Solids

Single crystalline form of solid insulin.

Solids are unique different from each of the other states of matter. They are not as flexible as the other forms of matter in terms of the compressibility, their shape and their volume. The volume and shapes of solids is fixed and unchangeable; and, they cannot be compressed because there is little space between the particles of a solid. The atoms and particles of solids are tightly packed together and this pattern of particles is typically highly regular and uniform.

Liquids

Unlike solids, liquids can change shape and, although the particles in liquids are close together and without more than a little space between these particles like this spacing in solids, liquids can move about and change their shape according to the shape of the container it is poured into. The particles in liquids can also slide past and around other particles in the liquid. In summary, the flexibility and rigidity of solids are far greater than the flexibility and rigidity of liquids. Additionally, liquids do not have a regular and uniform pattern of particles like solids do.

Similar to solids and different from gases, liquids do not change their volume.

Gases

Smoke particles provide clues to the movement of the surrounding gas.

Gases are characterized with the ability to change their shape and volume according to the shape and size of the container it is put into. Gases are also highly compressible, unlike solids and liquids, because their composite particles have much more space between these particles than liquids and solids. Like liquids, the particles in gases flow easily.

Gases have no regular and uniform arrangement like solids do; and gases move freely and they are capable of moving at high speeds.

Plasma

Unlike the other states of matter, including solids, liquids and gases, plasma is not naturally found in nature on our earth. Instead, plasma is produced artificially or it is found beyond our atmosphere and universe.

Plasma can be fully ionized or partially ionized. Partially ionized plasma is found in things like neon signs and fully ionized plasma is found in stars.

Popular scientific thought is now leaning towards the fact that plasma is the largest and most commonly found type of matter in our universe. In other words, plasma is likely to be more abundant than solids, liquids and gases.

Atoms

An illustration of the helium atom, depicting the nucleus (pink) and the electron cloud distribution (black). The nucleus (upper right) in helium-4 is in reality spherically symmetric and closely resembles the electron cloud, although for more complicated nuclei this is not always the case. The black bar is one angstrom (10'10 m or 100 pm).

Atoms are the smallest component and the most basic part of matter, including solids, liquids, gases and plasma, which still retains the original properties of the chemical element that it is a part of. Atoms are very small; however, they can be seen with an electron microscope.

At the current time, we have discovered and identified 118 elements, therefore, there are 118 different elements, therefore, and there are 118 different atoms that retain the characteristics and properties of each of these elements. The Periodic Table of Elements will be discussed below.

All atoms are made up of:

  • A nucleus which contains protons and neutrons
  • Electrons

The vast majority of an atom is its nucleus in terms of the total mass of the atom.

The Nucleus

The nucleus of the atom is the part of the atom that houses the protons and the neutrons.

Protons

The protons of the atom, as the name suggests, are the positively charged (+) components of the atom; protons are in the nucleus of the atom. It is the number of protons that give the atom its chemical identity.

Neutrons

The neutrons of the atom, as the name suggests, are the part of the atom that has no charge; they are neutral without a positive or negative electrical charge. Neutrons share space with the protons in the nucleus of the atom. The number of neutrons in an atom gives the atom its isotope identity.

Electrons

The electrons of the atom are the part of the atom that has a negative (-) charge. Neutrons surround and are bound to the nucleus of the atom; they do not share space with neutrons and protons in the nucleus of the atom. The electrons, with a negative (-) charge, stay with the atom because these negative parts of the atom are attracted to and stuck near the positively charged protons of the atom in much the same manner that the negative and positive poles of a magnet are attracted to each other and become stuck to each other.

Very often, atoms have the same number of protons and neutrons. For example, an atom with 3 protons typically also has 3 neutrons.

Atoms are neutral when the number of protons and the number of electrons are the same; atoms have a positive charge when the number of protons in the nucleus of the atom are greater than the number of electron's in its atomic orbit surrounding the nucleus; and an atom will have a negative charge when the number of protons in the nucleus of the atom is less than the number of electron's in its atomic orbit surrounding the nucleus.

When an atom is either positively or negatively charged, it is called an ion. Simply defined, an ion is an electrically charged atom. When an ion has a positive charge, it is called a cation; and when an ion has a negative charge, it is called an anion.

The Periodic Table of Elements

Complete Periodic Table of the Elements with atomic number symbol and weight.

It is the number of protons that give the atom its chemical identity; and it is the number of neutrons in an atom gives the atom its isotope identity.

The Periodic Table of Elements, initially developed by the Russian chemist Mendeleev in the mid 1800s, is highly organized and orderly, despite the fact that, at first glance, it appears to lack cohesive order and logic.

We will now show you how to read the Periodic Table of Elements and understand its components in a relatively simple and straightforward manner.

The Periodic Table of Elements is organized sequentially according to the number of its protons which is equal to the number of electrons, which make the atom neutral. So, as you can see in the Periodic Table of Elements above is organized from # 1 to # 181 according to the number of protons or electrons in each element. For example, the first element on the Periodic Table of Elements is hydrogen which has one proton and one electron; the second element on the Periodic Table of Elements is helium which has two protons and the same number of electrons; and the last element on the current Periodic Table of Elements is # 118 which is oganesson which was added as named in 2016.

The elements of the Periodic Table of Elements are also organized in columns, as you can see in the picture of the Periodic Table of Elements above. These columns indicate that the elements in each column are similar to each other in terms of their valence. Simply define, valence or valiancy is the connectivity and combining capacity of an atom to other atoms to form molecules and compounds.

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