Atom

Atoms and molecules as depicted in John Dalton's A New System of Chemical Philosophy vol. 1 (1808)
The Geiger–Marsden experiment:
Left: Expected results: alpha particles passing through the plum pudding model of the atom with negligible deflection.
Right: Observed results: a small portion of the particles were deflected by the concentrated positive charge of the nucleus.
The Bohr model of the atom, with an electron making instantaneous "quantum leaps" from one orbit to another with gain or loss of energy. This model of electrons in orbits is obsolete.
The binding energy needed for a nucleon to escape the nucleus, for various isotopes
A potential well, showing, according to classical mechanics, the minimum energy V(x) needed to reach each position x. Classically, a particle with energy E is constrained to a range of positions between x1 and x2.
3D views of some hydrogen-like atomic orbitals showing probability density and phase (g orbitals and higher are not shown)
This diagram shows the half-life (T½) of various isotopes with Z protons and N neutrons.
These electron's energy levels (not to scale) are sufficient for ground states of atoms up to cadmium (5s2 4d10) inclusively. Do not forget that even the top of the diagram is lower than an unbound electron state.
An example of absorption lines in a spectrum
Graphic illustrating the formation of a Bose–Einstein condensate
Scanning tunneling microscope image showing the individual atoms making up this gold (100) surface. The surface atoms deviate from the bulk crystal structure and arrange in columns several atoms wide with pits between them (See surface reconstruction).
Periodic table showing the origin of each element. Elements from carbon up to sulfur may be made in small stars by the alpha process. Elements beyond iron are made in large stars with slow neutron capture (s-process). Elements heavier than iron may be made in neutron star mergers or supernovae after the r-process.

Smallest unit of ordinary matter that forms a chemical element.

- Atom
Atoms and molecules as depicted in John Dalton's A New System of Chemical Philosophy vol. 1 (1808)

115 related topics

Alpha

The chemical elements ordered in the periodic table

Chemical element

The chemical elements ordered in the periodic table
Estimated distribution of dark matter and dark energy in the universe. Only the fraction of the mass and energy in the universe labeled "atoms" is composed of chemical elements.
Periodic table showing the cosmogenic origin of each element in the Big Bang, or in large or small stars. Small stars can produce certain elements up to sulfur, by the alpha process. Supernovae are needed to produce "heavy" elements (those beyond iron and nickel) rapidly by neutron buildup, in the r-process. Certain large stars slowly produce other elements heavier than iron, in the s-process; these may then be blown into space in the off-gassing of planetary nebulae
Abundances of the chemical elements in the Solar System. Hydrogen and helium are most common, from the Big Bang. The next three elements (Li, Be, B) are rare because they are poorly synthesized in the Big Bang and also in stars. The two general trends in the remaining stellar-produced elements are: (1) an alternation of abundance in elements as they have even or odd atomic numbers (the Oddo-Harkins rule), and (2) a general decrease in abundance as elements become heavier. Iron is especially common because it represents the minimum energy nuclide that can be made by fusion of helium in supernovae.
Mendeleev's 1869 periodic table: An experiment on a system of elements. Based on their atomic weights and chemical similarities.
Dmitri Mendeleev
Henry Moseley

A chemical element refers to all aspects of the species of atoms that have a certain number of protons in their nuclei, including the pure substance consisting only of that species.

Hydrogen atomic orbitals at different energy levels. The more opaque areas are where one is most likely to find an electron at any given time.

Electron

Subatomic particle whose electric charge is negative one elementary charge.

Subatomic particle whose electric charge is negative one elementary charge.

Hydrogen atomic orbitals at different energy levels. The more opaque areas are where one is most likely to find an electron at any given time.
A beam of electrons deflected in a circle by a magnetic field
J. J. Thomson
Robert Millikan
The Bohr model of the atom, showing states of an electron with energy quantized by the number n. An electron dropping to a lower orbit emits a photon equal to the energy difference between the orbits.
In quantum mechanics, the behavior of an electron in an atom is described by an orbital, which is a probability distribution rather than an orbit. In the figure, the shading indicates the relative probability to "find" the electron, having the energy corresponding to the given quantum numbers, at that point.
Standard Model of elementary particles. The electron (symbol e) is on the left.
Example of an antisymmetric wave function for a quantum state of two identical fermions in a 1-dimensional box. If the particles swap position, the wave function inverts its sign.
A schematic depiction of virtual electron–positron pairs appearing at random near an electron (at lower left)
A particle with charge q (at left) is moving with velocity v through a magnetic field B that is oriented toward the viewer. For an electron, q is negative so it follows a curved trajectory toward the top.
Here, Bremsstrahlung is produced by an electron e deflected by the electric field of an atomic nucleus. The energy change E2 − E1 determines the frequency f of the emitted photon.
Probability densities for the first few hydrogen atom orbitals, seen in cross-section. The energy level of a bound electron determines the orbital it occupies, and the color reflects the probability of finding the electron at a given position.
A lightning discharge consists primarily of a flow of electrons. The electric potential needed for lightning can be generated by a triboelectric effect.
Lorentz factor as a function of velocity. It starts at value 1 and goes to infinity as v approaches c.
Pair production of an electron and positron, caused by the close approach of a photon with an atomic nucleus. The lightning symbol represents an exchange of a virtual photon, thus an electric force acts. The angle between the particles is very small.
An extended air shower generated by an energetic cosmic ray striking the Earth's atmosphere
Aurorae are mostly caused by energetic electrons precipitating into the atmosphere.
During a NASA wind tunnel test, a model of the Space Shuttle is targeted by a beam of electrons, simulating the effect of ionizing gases during re-entry.

The Coulomb force interaction between the positive protons within atomic nuclei and the negative electrons without, allows the composition of the two known as atoms.

The Space Shuttle Main Engine burnt hydrogen with oxygen, producing a nearly invisible flame at full thrust.

Hydrogen

Chemical element with the symbol H and atomic number 1.

Chemical element with the symbol H and atomic number 1.

The Space Shuttle Main Engine burnt hydrogen with oxygen, producing a nearly invisible flame at full thrust.
Depiction of a hydrogen atom with size of central proton shown, and the atomic diameter shown as about twice the Bohr model radius (image not to scale)
Hydrogen gas is colorless and transparent, here contained in a glass ampoule.
Phase diagram of hydrogen. The temperature and pressure scales are logarithmic, so one unit corresponds to a 10x change. The left edge corresponds to 105 Pa, which is about atmospheric pressure.
A sample of sodium hydride
Hydrogen discharge (spectrum) tube
Deuterium discharge (spectrum) tube
Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier
Hydrogen emission spectrum lines in the visible range. These are the four visible lines of the Balmer series
NGC 604, a giant region of ionized hydrogen in the Triangulum Galaxy
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For the most common isotope of hydrogen (symbol 1H) each atom has one proton, one electron, and no neutrons.

The quark content of the neutron. The color assignment of individual quarks is arbitrary, but all three colors must be present. Forces between quarks are mediated by gluons.

Neutron

Subatomic particle, symbol or, which has a neutral charge, and a mass slightly greater than that of a proton.

Subatomic particle, symbol or, which has a neutral charge, and a mass slightly greater than that of a proton.

The quark content of the neutron. The color assignment of individual quarks is arbitrary, but all three colors must be present. Forces between quarks are mediated by gluons.
Nuclear fission caused by absorption of a neutron by uranium-235. The heavy nuclide fragments into lighter components and additional neutrons.
Models depicting the nucleus and electron energy levels in hydrogen, helium, lithium, and neon atoms. In reality, the diameter of the nucleus is about 100,000 times smaller than the diameter of the atom.
A schematic of the nucleus of an atom indicating radiation, the emission of a fast electron from the nucleus (the accompanying antineutrino is omitted). In the Rutherford model for the nucleus, red spheres were protons with positive charge and blue spheres were protons tightly bound to an electron with no net charge. 
The inset shows beta decay of a free neutron as it is understood today; an electron and antineutrino are created in this process.
The Feynman diagram for beta decay of a neutron into a proton, electron, and electron antineutrino via an intermediate heavy W boson
The leading-order Feynman diagram for decay of a proton into a neutron, positron, and electron neutrino via an intermediate boson.
Institut Laue–Langevin (ILL) in Grenoble, France – a major neutron research facility.
Cold neutron source providing neutrons at about the temperature of liquid hydrogen
The fusion reaction rate increases rapidly with temperature until it maximizes and then gradually drops off. The D–T rate peaks at a lower temperature (about 70 keV, or 800 million kelvins) and at a higher value than other reactions commonly considered for fusion energy.
Transmutation flow in light water reactor, which is a thermal-spectrum reactor

Protons and neutrons constitute the nuclei of atoms.

The quark content of a proton. The color assignment of individual quarks is arbitrary, but all three colors must be present. Forces between quarks are mediated by gluons.

Proton

Stable subatomic particle, symbol, H+, or 1H+ with a positive electric charge of +1e elementary charge.

Stable subatomic particle, symbol, H+, or 1H+ with a positive electric charge of +1e elementary charge.

The quark content of a proton. The color assignment of individual quarks is arbitrary, but all three colors must be present. Forces between quarks are mediated by gluons.
Ernest Rutherford at the first Solvay Conference, 1911
Proton detected in an isopropanol cloud chamber
Protium, the most common isotope of hydrogen, consists of one proton and one electron (it has no neutrons). The term "hydrogen ion" implies that that H-atom has lost its one electron, causing only a proton to remain. Thus, in chemistry, the terms "proton" and "hydrogen ion" (for the protium isotope) are used synonymously

One or more protons are present in the nucleus of every atom.

Wave functions of the electron in a hydrogen atom at different energy levels. Quantum mechanics cannot predict the exact location of a particle in space, only the probability of finding it at different locations. The brighter areas represent a higher probability of finding the electron.

Quantum mechanics

Wave functions of the electron in a hydrogen atom at different energy levels. Quantum mechanics cannot predict the exact location of a particle in space, only the probability of finding it at different locations. The brighter areas represent a higher probability of finding the electron.
Fig. 1
Position space probability density of a Gaussian wave packet moving in one dimension in free space.
1-dimensional potential energy box (or infinite potential well)
Some trajectories of a harmonic oscillator (i.e. a ball attached to a spring) in classical mechanics (A-B) and quantum mechanics (C-H). In quantum mechanics, the position of the ball is represented by a wave (called the wave function), with the real part shown in blue and the imaginary part shown in red. Some of the trajectories (such as C, D, E, and F) are standing waves (or "stationary states"). Each standing-wave frequency is proportional to a possible energy level of the oscillator. This "energy quantization" does not occur in classical physics, where the oscillator can have any energy.
Schematic of a Mach–Zehnder interferometer.
Max Planck is considered the father of the quantum theory.
The 1927 Solvay Conference in Brussels was the fifth world physics conference.

Quantum mechanics is a fundamental theory in physics that provides a description of the physical properties of nature at the scale of atoms and subatomic particles.

Photons are emitted by a cyan laser beam outside, orange laser beam inside calcite and its fluorescence

Photon

Elementary particle that is a quantum of the electromagnetic field, including electromagnetic radiation such as light and radio waves, and the force carrier for the electromagnetic force.

Elementary particle that is a quantum of the electromagnetic field, including electromagnetic radiation such as light and radio waves, and the force carrier for the electromagnetic force.

Photons are emitted by a cyan laser beam outside, orange laser beam inside calcite and its fluorescence
Photoelectric effect: the emission of electrons from a metal plate caused by light quanta – photons.
The cone shows possible values of wave 4-vector of a photon. The "time" axis gives the angular frequency (rad⋅s−1) and the "space" axis represents the angular wavenumber (rad⋅m−1). Green and indigo represent left and right polarization
Thomas Young's double-slit experiment in 1801 showed that light can act as a wave, helping to invalidate early particle theories of light.
In 1900, Maxwell's theoretical model of light as oscillating electric and magnetic fields seemed complete. However, several observations could not be explained by any wave model of electromagnetic radiation, leading to the idea that light-energy was packaged into quanta described by . Later experiments showed that these light-quanta also carry momentum and, thus, can be considered particles: The photon concept was born, leading to a deeper understanding of the electric and magnetic fields themselves.
Up to 1923, most physicists were reluctant to accept that light itself was quantized. Instead, they tried to explain photon behaviour by quantizing only matter, as in the Bohr model of the hydrogen atom (shown here). Even though these semiclassical models were only a first approximation, they were accurate for simple systems and they led to quantum mechanics.
Photons in a Mach–Zehnder interferometer exhibit wave-like interference and particle-like detection at single-photon detectors.
Stimulated emission (in which photons "clone" themselves) was predicted by Einstein in his kinetic analysis, and led to the development of the laser. Einstein's derivation inspired further developments in the quantum treatment of light, which led to the statistical interpretation of quantum mechanics.
Different electromagnetic modes (such as those depicted here) can be treated as independent simple harmonic oscillators. A photon corresponds to a unit of energy E = hν in its electromagnetic mode.

During a molecular, atomic or nuclear transition to a lower energy level, photons of various energy will be emitted, ranging from radio waves to gamma rays.

Spectral lines of helium

Helium

Chemical element with the symbol He and atomic number 2.

Chemical element with the symbol He and atomic number 2.

Spectral lines of helium
Sir William Ramsay, the discoverer of terrestrial helium
The cleveite sample from which Ramsay first purified helium
Historical marker, denoting a massive helium find near Dexter, Kansas
The helium atom. Depicted are the nucleus (pink) and the electron cloud distribution (black). The nucleus (upper right) in helium-4 is in reality spherically symmetric and closely resembles the electron cloud, although for more complicated nuclei this is not always the case.
Binding energy per nucleon of common isotopes. The binding energy per particle of helium-4 is significantly larger than all nearby nuclides.
Helium discharge tube shaped like the element's atomic symbol
Liquefied helium. This helium is not only liquid, but has been cooled to the point of superfluidity. The drop of liquid at the bottom of the glass represents helium spontaneously escaping from the container over the side, to empty out of the container. The energy to drive this process is supplied by the potential energy of the falling helium.
Unlike ordinary liquids, helium II will creep along surfaces in order to reach an equal level; after a short while, the levels in the two containers will equalize. The Rollin film also covers the interior of the larger container; if it were not sealed, the helium II would creep out and escape.
Structure of the helium hydride ion, HHe+
Structure of the suspected fluoroheliate anion, OHeF−
The largest single use of liquid helium is to cool the superconducting magnets in modern MRI scanners.
A dual chamber helium leak detection machine
Because of its low density and incombustibility, helium is the gas of choice to fill airships such as the Goodyear blimp.

In the perspective of quantum mechanics, helium is the second simplest atom to model, following the hydrogen atom.

A model of the atomic nucleus showing it as a compact bundle of the two types of nucleons: protons (red) and neutrons (blue). In this diagram, protons and neutrons look like little balls stuck together, but an actual nucleus (as understood by modern nuclear physics) cannot be explained like this, but only by using quantum mechanics. In a nucleus that occupies a certain energy level (for example, the ground state), each nucleon can be said to occupy a range of locations.

Atomic nucleus

A model of the atomic nucleus showing it as a compact bundle of the two types of nucleons: protons (red) and neutrons (blue). In this diagram, protons and neutrons look like little balls stuck together, but an actual nucleus (as understood by modern nuclear physics) cannot be explained like this, but only by using quantum mechanics. In a nucleus that occupies a certain energy level (for example, the ground state), each nucleon can be said to occupy a range of locations.
A figurative depiction of the helium-4 atom with the electron cloud in shades of gray. In the nucleus, the two protons and two neutrons are depicted in red and blue. This depiction shows the particles as separate, whereas in an actual helium atom, the protons are superimposed in space and most likely found at the very center of the nucleus, and the same is true of the two neutrons. Thus, all four particles are most likely found in exactly the same space, at the central point. Classical images of separate particles fail to model known charge distributions in very small nuclei. A more accurate image is that the spatial distribution of nucleons in a helium nucleus is much closer to the helium electron cloud shown here, although on a far smaller scale, than to the fanciful nucleus image. Both the helium atom and its nucleus are spherically symmetric.

The atomic nucleus is the small, dense region consisting of protons and neutrons at the center of an atom, discovered in 1911 by Ernest Rutherford based on the 1909 Geiger–Marsden gold foil experiment.

Atomic orbitals of the electron in a hydrogen atom at different energy levels. The probability of finding the electron is given by the color, as shown in the key at upper right.

Atomic orbital

Domain coloring of a

Domain coloring of a

Atomic orbitals of the electron in a hydrogen atom at different energy levels. The probability of finding the electron is given by the color, as shown in the key at upper right.
3D views of some hydrogen-like atomic orbitals showing probability density and phase (g orbitals and higher are not shown)
The Rutherford–Bohr model of the hydrogen atom.
Energetic levels and sublevels of polyelectronic atoms.
Experimentally imaged 1s and 2p core-electron orbitals of Sr, including the effects of atomic thermal vibrations and excitation broadening, retrieved from energy dispersive x-ray spectroscopy (EDX) in scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM).
The 1s, 2s, and 2p orbitals of a sodium atom.
Atomic orbitals spdf m-eigenstates and superpositions
Electron atomic and molecular orbitals. The chart of orbitals (left) is arranged by increasing energy (see Madelung rule). Note that atomic orbits are functions of three variables (two angles, and the distance r from the nucleus). These images are faithful to the angular component of the orbital, but not entirely representative of the orbital as a whole.
Drum mode <math>u_{01}</math>
Drum mode <math>u_{02}</math>
Drum mode <math>u_{03}</math>
Wave function of 1s orbital (real part, 2D-cut, <math>r_{max}=2 a_0</math>)
Wave function of 2s orbital (real part, 2D-cut, <math>r_{max}=10 a_0</math>)
Wave function of 3s orbital (real part, 2D-cut, <math>r_{max}=20 a_0</math>)
Drum mode <math>u_{11}</math>
Drum mode <math>u_{12}</math>
Drum mode <math>u_{13}</math>
Wave function of 2p orbital (real part, 2D-cut, <math>r_{max}=10 a_0</math>)
Wave function of 3p orbital (real part, 2D-cut, <math>r_{max}=20 a_0</math>)
Wave function of 4p orbital (real part, 2D-cut, <math>r_{max}=25 a_0</math>)
Drum mode <math>u_{21}</math>
Drum mode <math>u_{22}</math>
Drum mode <math>u_{23}</math>

In atomic theory and quantum mechanics, an atomic orbital is a mathematical function describing the location and wave-like behavior of an electron in an atom.