Atomic Structure 1

The study of atomic structure forms a major part of GCSE Chemistry. This includes many aspects such as the sub-atomic particles (protons, neutrons and electrons) and their arrangement within the atoms of different elements; atomic mass; atomic number; positive and negative charge; the nucleus; energy levels or electron shells - to name but a few!. Therefore, we have three quizzes devoted to this particular topic, of which this is the first.

The word atom comes from the ancient Greek word atomos meaning unsplittable or uncuttable. A philospher called Democrites carried out a thought experiment. He imagined taking a piece of rock and hitting it with a hammer. He knew the rock would break so he wondered what might happen if you took one of the broken pieces and hit that and so on. He arrived at the conclusion that you would eventually be left with a piece that was so small it could not be broken any more.

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But that was as far as it went. The Greek philosophers did no experiments and believed everything to be made of earth, fire, air and water. These ideas were hard to get rid of and there are even people today who believe that the Greek ideas are correct! Gradually, science progressed and by the end of the 18th Century, scientists were coming up with ideas about the atom.

Early atomic models explained how many chemicals behaved, but there were times when it didn't work. It was these imperfections of the theory that lead to new work and new ideas. Eventually the realisation came late in the 19th century - an atom could in fact be divided up into smaller particles - protons (with a positive charge), neutrons (with a neutral charge) and electrons (with a negative charge). We now see the structure of atoms as being a very complex arrangement of protons, neutrons and electrons - but mainly empty space.

Here are 10 questions on atomic structure to help ensure your understanding is spot on.

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  1. Pick the correct combination for the charges of sub-atomic particles.
    The protons attract and keep the electrons in the atom as these two particles have opposite charges
  2. The numbers in the options below represent the masses of the three sub-atomic particles. Pick the correct combination.
    The mass of an electron is actually about 1/1860 amu, but since this is such a tiny mass, it is referred to as being 0
  3. The mass number of an element tells us...
    It is the total number of particles found in the nucleus
  4. The atomic number of an element tells us...
    Remember protons = electrons in a neutral atom
  5. The atomic number of an element is 11 and its mass number is 23. Pick the correct combination of protons, neutrons and electrons.
    The number of protons and the number of electrons are both given by the atomic number i.e. 11 of each. The difference between the atomic number and the mass number gives you the number of neutrons
  6. The protons of an atom are found...
    They are clustered together with the neutrons
  7. The electrons are found...
    They are found in specific areas known as energy levels or electron shells
  8. The neutrons of an atom are found...
    They are clustered together with the protons
  9. Carbon has two isotopes. These atoms have...

     The mass number shown in the Periodic Table is an average of the mass of the isotopes

  10. If an element has 56 protons, 56 electrons and 81 neutrons, what is its mass number?
    Mass number = number of protons + number of neutrons

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