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Difference Between an Element and a Compound

periodic-tableElement vs Compound
As with any field of study, the study of chemistry has a number of basic concepts and principles that chemistry students must be able to first understand. One particular concept is that of pure substances. There are two kinds of pure substances on earth: elements and compounds.

Elements are pure substances that are made out of just one kind of atom. The best way to know which pure substances are considered as elements is through looking at the Periodic Table. Elements are listed on the Periodic Table based on its atomic number, which is the number of protons that are found in the atom’s nucleus. Altogether, there are 117 known elements. 94 of these elements are natural elements, meaning that they are found in nature. Examples of these are hydrogen, oxygen and carbon. The remaining 22 elements are artificial elements. By artificial, this means that these elements have undergone through some form of radioactive process. The radioactive process occurs because these elements are not stable and they decay over a period of time, thus, creating a completely different kind of element altogether.

On the other hand, compounds are pure substances that are made out of two or more different elements. While this may be the case, compounds tend to possess a chemical structure that is completely unique from the structure of the elements that make up the said compound. These compounds may be separated through a number of different processes in order to segregate the different elements that make up the said compound.

Compounds are usually formed by elements naturally in order for them to become more stable. As mentioned earlier, not all the elements found on earth are stable. The stability of an element is determined on the number of electrons in its outermost energy level. This outermost energy level must first be maxed out in order to achieve stability.

For many chemistry students, the definition of what a compound is and what an element is can make things a bit complicated. Since elements have been defined as those that are comprised of just one kind of atom, they tend to view certain elements such as ozone to be a compound, instead of an element. This is where the main difference between the two can be seen. Elements are those that are made out of just one type of atom. In the case of the element ozone, this is made out of three atoms of just one kind of element: oxygen. Another thing that differentiates the two is that the chemical structure of a compound must have a certain form of bonding between two different elements to achieve stability. These forms of bonding are not found in elemental molecules which contain multiple atoms of the same element.


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