Tuesday 23 December 2014

What is the difference between a particle and an atom?

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Atoms, molecules, and particles are all very small, right? But they should not be confused with each other as there are key differences between them.


An atom is defined as the smallest component of element or matter that exist. Atoms are made up of protons and electrons, revolving around a nucleus. 

Atoms are the smallest component of an element that have the chemical properties of the element. Any of the elements you see on the periodic table exist as atom. The atomic number of an element on the chart refers to the number of protons contained in one atom of that element.

Elements are made up of many atoms. For example copper is an element, and a copper atom is the smallest piece of copper that exists. 


Molecules can be defined as combination or group of two or more atoms. Molecules are formed when atoms of different elements share their electron to each other via covalent bonds.  

Water (H2O) for example is formed when two hydrogen atoms are joined to a oxygen atom to form a new compound.  Therfore molecules are the smallest bits of compounds.


Particle is a general term which includes atoms, molecules, ions, ionic substances. They are the building blocks of matter. The term particle should not be confused with the very different atomic subparticles.  

Particles can mean atoms (He gas atoms), molecules (H2 gas, N2 gas molecules), ionic substances (NaCl ionic salt) or even the ions itself (Chloride Cl- anions, Mg2+ cations).

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