You are on page 1of 2

Page 1

Atomic Structure 2013

Structure: Change throughout history
The structure of the atom was
originally described by Sir Isaac
Newton as small solid masses in
motion. The structure was then
expanded upon by John Dalton
through his atomic theory, which
states that atoms were spherical and
solid, which had measurable
properties of mass. One of the next
most important figures in shaping
what we now think of as the modern
atomic structure was J.J. Thomson.
Through Thomsons experimentation
with cathode rays, he was able to
deduce that all matter was made up of
tiny particles that were smaller than
atoms. He originally called these
particles corpuscles, but are now
known as ELECTRONS!
The discovery of the positive part
of the atom is attributed to the Father
of Nuclear Physics Ernest
Rutherford. Rutherford was the first
person to split an atom and discover
that all atoms had a dense, very small
and positively charged center which
was attributed to the nucleus.
Rutherford also assumed that the
negative electrons were located
around the dense, positive nucleus.
James Chadwick used alpha
particles to discover the neutral
atomic particle with a mass close to
that of the proton, and called the
neutron. He stated that these particles
would be located with the protons in
the nucleus of the atom. Thus all the
parts of the modern atom were

Electrons: Whats an electron cloud
Unlike the way electrons are
normally shown in the average chemistry
class, electrons dont orbit in nice, neat
orbitals around the nucleus (like its
shown below). Like most things in life its
more complicated than that. Electrons are
now believed to move in a more erratic
manner, and form a constantly moving
cloud-like structure around the nucleus.
What is meant by a cloud you ask? Well,
unlike the common depiction, an
electrons position cant be exactly
pinpointed. Electrons dont orbit the
nucleus like the planets orbit the sun as
they are often shown. Instead they are
thought to exist in atomic orbital or
electron cloud. An electron cloud is a
function which can be used to calculate
the probability of an electrons physical
space in an atom.
Depiction Below: electron clouds in orbitals 1s, 2p,
3d, 4f, 2s, and 3p

Page 2

Atomic Structure 2013
Unlike planets bound to the sun
through gravity, electrons are bound to
the nucleus by the Coulomb force. The
Coulomb force is (in laymens terms)
either the attractive or repulsive force of
different charges. For example two like
charges could repel each other, positive to
positive or negative to negative. Whereas
opposite charges would attract each
other, negative to positive.
Neutrons: Why are they so
Although neutrons have no
charge they are very important to
the overall structure and function
of the atom. Neutrons play an
important function in stabilizing
the atom. Because like charges
repel, like the positive protons
in the nucleus dont stick
together very well, this causes
instability in the nucleus.
Neutrons have an attractive force
to both other neutrons and protons
which allow the nucleus to be held
more tightly together than just
the protons would be able to
Neutrons also account for
isotopes. Isotopes are in essence
the same as atoms, because they
contain the same amount of
electrons and protons but
different numbers of neutrons. For
example, Carbon-14 contains six
protons and electrons but eight
neutrons instead of 6. Isotopes
are important because they can
provide a sufficient amount of
energy in order for fission in a
chain reaction and therefore offer
nuclear fuel for chemical

Protons make up the positive aspect
of the atom and neutralize the negative
charge of the electrons. Along with
neutrons, protons made up the nucleus of
the atom which accounts for almost all the
mass of the atoms considering that both
neutrons and protons have about 1840x
the mass of an electron. Protons are
important because the number of protons
in an atom is known as the atomic
number, which is used to identify the
atom. Also using the atomic number the
number of neutrons in an atom can be
determined. The number of neutrons can
be deduced by subtracting the atomic
number from the atomic mass, (Atomic
mass the atomic number = the number
of neutrons).