chemistry FAQ's

What Are Atoms?

An atom is the smallest recognised division of a chemical element and is made up of three particles: the proton, neutron and electron.

99% of the mass of the atom is held in the central nucleus, comprising the protons and neutrons. The negatively charged electrons whip around the nucleus in orbital shells of different energies.

  • The number of protons in a nucleus is called its atomic number.
  • The number of electrons in an atom is equal to the number of protons – this means that atoms have no overall charge.
  • If an atom gains or loses electrons, it is called an ion.

Fast Fact: The word Atom comes from the Greek word for ‘indivisible’ – ironic, seeing as we know atoms are made of even smaller subatomic particles.

Atomic Structure

ParticleRelative ChargeRelative Mass

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