Atoms and Molecules
Atoms and Molecules


All matters (solid, liquid, gas, plasma), that we see around us are made up of atoms and molecules.

What are atoms?

Atoms are the fundamental unit of all the elements. It is what gives the physical and chemical properties to metals and nonmetals.

To further break an atom will result in subatomic particles like electrons, protons, and neutrons. Only the combination of these subatomic particles which is stable gives an element its characteristics.

*There are also many theoretical and discovered subatomic particles like bosons and fermions.

There are more than 110 discovered elements (atoms) as shown in the periodic table.

Each atom consists of nucleus and the electrons revolving around it. Protons and neutrons are itself in the nucleus.



     Every atom is composed of a nucleus and one or more electrons bound to the nucleus. The nucleus is made of one or more protons and several neutrons. Only the most common variety of hydrogen has no neutrons. More than 99.94% of an atom's mass is in the nucleus. The protons have a positive electric charge, the electrons have a negative electric charge, and the neutrons have no electric charge. If the number of protons and electrons are equal, then the atom is electrically neutral. If an atom has more or fewer electrons than protons, then it has an overall negative or positive charge, respectively – such atoms are called ions.

The number of protons in the nucleus is the atomic number and it defines to which chemical element the atom belongs. For example, any atom that contains 29 protons is copper. The number of neutrons defines the isotope of the element. Atoms can attach to one or more other atoms by chemical bonds to form chemical compounds such as molecules or crystals. The ability of atoms to associate and dissociate is responsible for most of the physical changes observed in nature. Chemistry is the discipline that studies these changes.

What is a molecule?

A molecule is an electrically neutral group of two or more atoms held together by chemical bonds. Molecules are distinguished from ions by their lack of electrical charge.

A molecule may be homonuclear, that is, it consists of atoms of one chemical element, as with two atoms in the oxygen molecule (O2); or it may be heteronuclear, a chemical compound composed of more than one element, as with water (two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom; H2O). Following figure is representation of water molecule. The red sphere is oxygen atom and the yellow spheres are hydrogen atom, bonded together with covalent bond, thus forming a water molecule.



Molecules as components of matter are common. They also make up most of the oceans and atmosphere. Most organic substances are molecules. The substances of life are molecules, e.g. proteins, the amino acids they are made of, the nucleic acids (DNA & RNA), sugars, carbohydrates, fats, and vitamins. The nutrient minerals ordinarily are not molecules, e.g. iron sulfate.


However, the majority of familiar solid substances on Earth are not made of molecules. These include all of the minerals that make up the substance of the Earth, soil, dirt, sand, clay, pebbles, rocks, boulders, bedrock, the molten interior, and the core of the Earth. All of these contain many chemical bonds, but are not made of identifiable molecules.

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