Matter and Elements
In this blog post I would like to explain the overall basics of what Matter is and how it is made, as I currently understand it to be.
One definition of MATTER is that matter is anything that occupies space and has weight; that is, both the weight and dimensions of matter can be measured in some way. Examples of matter are air, water, vehicles, computers, and even our own flesh and blood bodies.
Matter can consist of any physical substance ranging from very small sub-atomic particles that make up the atoms themselves, to very large objects such as entire galaxies. All physical objects in our known universe with which we are capable of interacting with are made up of some combination of matter that exists in one state or another.
We can say that matter may be found in any one of three states: SOLID, LIQUID, and GASEOUS. Recent discoveries state that matter can also exist in exotic states as well, such as PLASMA.
There are things in our universe that are not made up of matter however, simply because they either do not occupy space and/or they do not have any measurable weight. Examples of these are:
- Radio Waves,
- Magnetic Flux,
- and even our own mental thoughts and emotions.
An ELEMENT is a substance which cannot be reduced to a simpler substance by chemical means. Examples of elements with which you are in everyday contact are iron, gold, silver, copper, and oxygen. There are currently 118 known elements, as listed on common Periodic Table Of Element charts. All of the different substances of matter that we know about today are composed of one or more of these elements.
When two or more different kind of elements are chemically combined, the resulting substance is called a COMPOUND. A compound is a chemical combination of elements which can be separated by chemical but not by physical means. Some examples of common compounds include water, which consists of hydrogen and oxygen elements, and table salt, which consists of sodium and chlorine elements.
A MIXTURE, on the other hand, is a combination of elements and compounds, not chemically combined, that can be separated by physical means. Some examples of mixtures are air, which is made up of nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide, and small amounts of several rare gases, and sea water, which consists mostly of salt and water.
A MOLECULE is a chemical combination of two or more atoms. In a compound the molecule is the smallest particle that has all of the characteristics of the compound.
Take water as an example. We can say that water is matter, since water occupies space and has weight. Depending on the temperature of that quantity of water, it may exist as a liquid (water), a solid (ice), or a gas (steam), or some combination of if the quantity is large enough (such as a lake of water may be frozen ice on one side, liquid water in the middle, and evaporating as steam on the other end of the lake). Regardless of the temperature, that quantity of water will still have the same composition throughout. If we start with a quantity of water, divide it into two and pour out one half, and continue this process a sufficient number of times, we will eventually end up with a quantity of water that cannot be divided any further without it ceasing to be water. This smallest quantity that cannot be divided any further without ceasing to still be itself is called a molecule, or a molecule of water in this example of water. If we did try and divide this smallest molecule of water into an even smaller substance, then instead of ending up with two parts of water we would instead just end up with one part of oxygen and two parts of hydrogen (since the composition of water is H2O).
The smaller particles that make up molecules are called atoms. An ATOM is the smallest particle of an element that retains the characteristics of that element.
For example, a single Gold atom is the smallest particle that a Gold element can be divided and broken down to and still retain the characteristics of Gold. Pure Gold element is made up of at one or more Gold atom. A bar of pure Gold is made up of trillions times trillions of Gold atoms, and even though it contains trillions times trillions of Gold atoms it is still just one element, Gold.
The atom of one element differ from the atoms of all other elements. Since there are over 100 known elements, then there also exists over 100 different atoms (one type of atom for each type of element).
Just as thousands of words can be made by combining the proper letters of the alphabet, so to can thousands of different materials be made by chemically combining the proper atoms.
Any particle that is a chemical combination of two or more atoms is called a molecule. The oxygen molecule consists of two atoms of oxygen, and the helium molecule consists of two atoms of hydrogen. Sugar, on the other hand, is a compound composed of atoms of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. These atoms are combined into sugar molecules. Since the sugar molecules can be broken down by chemical means into smaller and simpler units then by definition we cannot have sugar atoms.
The atoms of each element are made up of ELECTRONS, PROTONS, and, in most cases, NEUTRONS, which are collectively called SUBATOMIC PARTICLES.
The individual electrons, protons, and neutrons of one element are identical to those of any other element. The reason that there are different kinds of elements is that the quantity and the arrangement of electrons, protons, and neutrons within the atom are different for the different types of elements.
For example, in their neutral state, all hydrogen atoms are identical with each other, and they each contain one electron and one proton, and zero neutrons. In comparison, all helium atoms are identical with each other and they each contain two electrons, two protons, and two neutrons. The proton of a hydrogen atom is identical to the proton of a helium atom, but the hydrogen atom and the helium atom are different from each other because they both contain a different number of protons (and electrons, and neutrons).
The electron is considered to have a small negative charge of electricity. The proton has a small positive charge of electricity that is equal to but opposite to the charge of the electron. The electron and proton each have the same quantity of charge, however the mass of the proton is approximately 1837 times greater than that of the electron. In some atoms there also exists a neutral particle called a neutron. The neutron has a mass approximately equal to that of a proton, but the neutron has no observable electrical charge.
I like to think of or envision the electrons, protons, and neutrons of the atoms as being arranged in a manner similar to a miniature solar system, where the protons and neutrons are clumped together at the center and the electrons are individually orbiting around them like planets orbiting around the sun. But unlike a solar system, which is mostly 2D and flat and all of the planets lay within the same orbital plane, I like to further think of this envisioned model as being more 3D spherical shells that overlay ontop of each other, where each shell represents an electrons orbital surface, and where the outer electrons shells engulf and contain the smaller inner shells, and the protons and neutrons are still clumped together at the middle center. In this way, each electrons orbital plane is tilted relative to each other electrons plane, while they orbit around the clump of protons and neutrons that are at its center.
The protons and neutrons clump together to form what is called a heavy nucleus which has an overall positive charge. The much lighter electrons then revolve around.
The hydrogen atom has only one proton in the nucleus with one electron rotating about it. The helium atom is a little more complex, which has a nucleus that is made up of two protons and two neutrons, with two electrons that rotate and orbit around that nucleus.
Elements are classified numerically according to the complexity of their atoms. The simpler the atoms structure is then the lower the classification number, and the more complex the atom is the higher the classification number.
The atomic number of an atom is determined by the number of protons in its nucleus when the atom is in a neutral state. Whenever an atom is in a neutral state, that atom contains an equal number of protons and electrons. Since the electrical charge of an electron is equal to but opposite that of a proton, then when an atom has the same number of electrons as it has protons then its negative and positive charges cancel each other out and it is said to be in a neutral state.
Because an electron in an atom has both mass and motion, then it contains two types of energy. By virtue of its motion the electron contains KINETIC ENERGY. Due to its position it also contains POTENTIAL ENERGY. The total energy contained by an electron (that is, its kinetic plus potential) is the factor which determines the radius of the electron orbit. In order for an electron to remain in this orbit it must neither gain nor lose energy.
It is common knowledge that light is a form of energy, but the physical form in which this energy exists is not really known.
One theory proposes the existence of light as being tiny packets of energy called PHOTONS. Photons can contain various quantities of energy. The amount depends upon the color and intensity of the light involved. Should a photon of sufficient energy collide with an orbital electron, the electron will absorb the photon's energy. The electron, which now has a greater than normal amount of energy, might jump to a newer higher orbit that is farther away from the nucleus.
The first new orbit which an electron can jump has a radius four times as large as the radius of the original orbit. Had the electron received a greater amount of energy, the next possible orbit which it could jump to would have a radius nine times the original. Thus, each orbit may be considered to represent one of a larger number of energy levels that the electron may attain. It must be emphasized that the electron cannot jump to just any orbit. The electron will remain in its lowest orbit until a sufficient amount of energy is available, at which time the electron will accept the energy and jump to one of a series of permissible orbits. An electron cannot exist in the space between energy levels. This indicates that the electron will not accept a photon of energy unless it contains enough energy to elevate itself to one of the higher energy levels.
Heat energy and collisions with other particles can also cause the electron to jump orbits.
Once the electron has been elevated to an energy level higher than the lowest possible energy level, the atom is said to be in an excited state. The electron will not remain in this excited condition for more than a fraction of a second before it will radiate the excess energy and return to a lower energy orbit.
For example, assume that a normal electron has just received a photon of energy sufficient to raise it from the first to the third energy level. In a short period of time the electron may jump back to the first level emitting a new photon that is identical to the one it received. Alternatively, the electron could return to the lower level in two smaller jumps instead of one large jump, jumping from the third to the second, and then from the second to the first. In this case the electron would emit two photons, one for each jump. Each of these photons would have less energy than the original photon which excited the electron.
This principle is used in fluorescent light tubes, where ultraviolet light photons, which are not visible to the human eye, bombard a phosphor coating on the inside of a glass tube. The phosphor electrons, in returning to their normal orbits, emit photons of light that are visible. By using the proper chemicals for the phosphor coating, any color of light may be obtained, including white. This same principle is also used in lighting up the screen of an old television sets picture tube.
In atoms containing two or more electrons, the electrons interact with each other and the exact path of any one electron is very difficult to predict. However, each electron lies in a specific energy band and the orbits will be considered as an average of the electron's position.
The difference between different kinds of atoms is dependent upon the number and position of the electrons included within the atom. In general, the electrons reside in groups of orbits called shells. These shells are elliptically sphere shaped and are assumed to be located at fixed intervals, arranged in steps that correspond to fixed energy levels. The shells, and the number of electrons required to fill them, may be predicted with a principle that specifies that each shell will contain a maximum of 2(n^2) electrons, where n corresponds to the shell number starting with the one closest to the nucleus. For example, the second shell would contain 2(2^2) or 8 electrons when full.
In addition to being numbered, the shells are also given letter designations. Starting with the shell closest to the nucleus and progressing outward, the shells are labeled K, L, M, N, O, P, and Q, respectively. The shells are considered to be full, or complete, when they contain the following quantities of electrons: 2 in the K shell, 8 in the L shell, 18 in the M shell, and so on. Each of these shells is considered to be a major shell, and can be divided into sub-shells, which which there are four, labeled s, p, d, and f. Like the major shells, the sub-shells are also limited as to the number of electrons which they can contain. Thus, the s sub-shell is complete when it contains 2 electrons, the p sub-shell when it contains 6 electrons, the d sub-shell when it contains 10 electrons, and the f sub-shell when it contains 14 electrons.
Since the K shell can contain no more than 2 electrons then it must have only one sub-shell, which is the s sub-shell. The M shell is composed of three sub-shells: s, p, and d. If the electrons in the s, p, and d sub-shells are added together, their total is found to be 18, which is the exact number required to fill the M shell.
The number of electrons in the outermost shell determines the valence of an atom. For this reason, the outer shell of an atom is called the VALENCE SHELL, and the electrons contained in this shell are called VALENCE ELECTRONS.
The valence of an atom determines that atoms ability to gain or lose an electron, which in turn determines the chemical and electrical properties of the atom.
An atom that is lacking only one or two electrons from its outer shell will easily gain electrons in order to complete its shell, but a large amount of energy is required to free any of its electrons. An atom having a relatively small number of electrons in its outer shell (in comparison to the number of electrons required to fill the shell) will easily lose these valence electrons.
The valence shell always refers to the outermost shell.
When an atom loses electrons or gains electrons in this process of electron exchange, it is said to be IONIZED. For ionization to take place there must be a transfer of energy which results in a change in the internal energy levels of that atom.
An atom having more than its normal amount of electrons will have more negative charges than positive charges, which results in it to have an overall negative charge, and it is called a NEGATIVE ION. An atom that gives up some of its normal electrons will have less negative charges than positive charges, which results in it to have an overall positive charge, and it is called a POSITIVE ION.
Therefore IONIZATION is the process by which an atom loses or gains electrons.
Thank you for reading, I hope you found this blog post educational and helpful in some way.