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Difference Between Elements and Atoms

helium_atom_400_pdElements vs Atoms

Chemistry has taught us many things, and the basics of it has taught us about the things that matter consists of, with lots of terms to be understood, for example: Atoms, elements, substances, molecules, compounds, etc.

We all know that a substance is made up of elements and atoms, but do you really know what the difference is between the two?

Elements are the simplest form of substances, and are also considered to be pure substances that cannot be split or broken into simpler substances. However, they are still made up of smaller particles ‘“ which can be molecules, ions, or atoms. Practically, an element is made up of one kind of atom. If you have steel as an element, it means that it should only consist of steel atoms. So, in essence, an atom is the smallest amount of an element.

When atoms combine or bind together via a chemical means, they form molecules. When only like atoms combine, they form elements, so technically, elements can be composed of molecules.

An atom can be considered as the smallest amount of an element. It is the simplest unit of matter, and has a closely packed nucleus in its center. Surrounding the nucleus is a cloud of electrons, which are the negatively-charged particles of an atom. In the nucleus of the atom, a mix of electrically neutral neutrons and positively-charged protons converge. There is, however, an exception. ‘Hydrogen-1′ is a nuclide which is found to be stable, even without a neutron.

Electrons float around the nucleus, but are bound by a force, and when these atoms bind themselves with other atoms, a molecule is formed. Electrically neutral atoms contain equal numbers of electrons and protons. An atom with a charge – which is either negative (it has an extra electron) or positive (it has an extra proton) – is called an ion.

The term ‘element’ only came about at the time the periodic table of elements was introduced. It is actually a table of different kinds of atoms based on their characteristics, such as the number of sub-atomic particles, and atomic weight. However, the term element was used to point out a particular constituent in the periodic table.

Summary:

1. An element is a primary substance that cannot be further simplified, and consists of smaller particles called atoms.

2. An atom is the smallest amount of an element. It is composed of sub-atomic particles ‘“ neutrons, protons, and electrons.

3. A particular element is composed of only one type of atom.

4. Atoms combine to form molecules; when all bound atoms are alike, they form elements.

5. Fundamentally, the term element came about when the periodic table was introduced to describe kinds of atoms.


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2 Comments

  1. Correction : Steel is not an element… steel is an alloy (which is a mixture of various metallic elements) containing mostly the elements iron and carbon… and sometimes nickel

  2. You are so smart Maggie

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