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SMALLEST AND LARGEST ATOMS

Various atomic structures can be modeled.

a. The Hydrogen Atom.

Even though the smallest atom is hydrogen, scientists have found that it is made up of two smaller particles. The particle in the center of the hydrogen atom is called a proton.

The proton is much larger than the other particle, the electron. It takes about 1837 electrons to equal the size of a proton.

To show the spatial and size relationships within an atom, set a table-tennis ball (or another sphere about 1 inch in diameter) on the ground outdoors. Now place a common pin in the ground 400 feet from the sphere (about 133 footsteps).

The sphere represents the proton in the center of the atom, and the pinhead represents the electron that moves about it. You will easily realize that the atom is made up mostly of space.

The electron whirls rapidly throughout all the space in a large imaginary sphere (a radius equal to the distance from the sphere to the pinhead) surrounding the proton. The movement of the electron is three- dimensional and not two-dimensional.

b. Other Atoms.

The next smallest atom is helium. A helium atom has two protons in the center and two electrons orbiting around the protons.

The third smallest atom is lithium, which is composed of three protons and three electrons.

You will quickly realize that the next atomic model must have four protons and four electrons (beryllium).

There are 92 naturally found atoms -- or elements -- on earth.

The largest atom, which has 92 protons with 92 electrons orbiting around them, is uranium.

Each element is given an atomic number indicating how many protons and electrons that atom has. For example, oxygen has 8 protons and 8 electrons and has the Atomic Number 8.

 
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