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Calculation Of Empty Space In An Atom (Considering The Simplest Hydrogen Atom)

Everything about the atom,

Atoms are the basic units of matter and the defining structure of elements. Atoms consist of three particles: protons, neutrons and electrons.

Protons and neutrons are heavier than electrons and reside in the center of the atom, called the nucleus. Electrons are very light and exist in a cloud that revolves around the nucleus. The radius of the electron cloud is 10,000 times greater than the nucleus.

Protons and neutrons have the same mass. However, one proton weighs more than 1800 electrons. Atoms always have the same number of protons and electrons, and the number of protons and neutrons is usually the same. Adding a proton to an atom creates a new element, while adding a neutron creates an isotope or heavier version of the atom.

Nucleus

The nucleus was discovered in 1911, but its parts were not identified until 1932. In fact, all the mass of an atom resides in the nucleus. The nucleus is held by the “strong force,” one of the four fundamental forces of nature. This force between protons and neutrons overrides the repulsive electric force that, according to the laws of electricity, will push the protons apart.

Proton

Protons are positively charged particles found in atomic nuclei. It was discovered by Ernest Rutherford in experiments conducted between 1911 and 1919.

The number of protons in an atom determines what element it is. For example, carbon atoms have six protons, hydrogen atoms have one, and oxygen atoms have eight. The number of protons in an atom is called the atomic number of that element. The number of protons in an atom also determines the chemical behavior of the element. The Periodic Table of the Elements ranks the elements in order of increasing atomic number.

Protons are made of other particles called quarks. Each proton has three quarks – two “up” quarks and one “down” quark – and they are held together by other particles called gluons.

Electron

Electrons have a negative charge and are electrically attracted to positively charged protons. Electrons surround the nucleus of an atom in paths called orbitals. The inner orbitals around the atom are gray but the outer orbitals are much more complex.

The electron configuration of an atom is the orbital description of the positions of the electrons in an unpaired atom. Using electron configuration and principles of physics, chemists can predict the properties of atoms, such as stability, boiling point and conductivity.

In general, only the outermost electron shells are important in chemistry. The symbol for the innermost electron shell is often replaced with the symbol for a noble gas in parentheses instead of describing the long-arm orbital. This method of notation greatly simplifies the description of large molecules.

For example, the electron configuration for beryllium (Be) is 1s22s2, but it is written [He]2s2. [He] is equivalent to all the electron orbitals in the helium atom. The letters, s, p, d and f indicate the shape of the orbitals and the superscript gives the number of electrons in that orbital.

Neutrons

Neutrons are uncharged particles found in atomic nuclei. The mass of the neutron is slightly greater than that of the proton. Like protons, neutrons are made of quarks – one “up” quark and two “down” quarks. Neutrons were discovered in 1932 by James Chadwick.

Pretty much all. Let’s look at a hydrogen atom to see how empty it really is.

A hydrogen atom consists of one proton surrounded by one electron. How big is a hydrogen atom? The radius of a hydrogen atom is known as the Bohr Radius, which is about .529 × 10-10 meters. This means that the volume of a hydrogen atom is about 6.2 × 10-31 cubic meters.

How big is the proton in the center of the hydrogen atom? Recent studies show that protons are about 84 × 10-15 meters, which gives them a volume of about 2.5 × 10-45 cubic meters.

We need to do a little more math to find how many hydrogen atoms are empty space:

Percent Complete = 100 × (Filled Volume / Total Volume)

Percent full = 100 × (2.5 × 10**-45 m3 / 6.2 × 10**-31 m3)

Percent full = 100 × (4 × 10**-15)

Percent full = 4 × 10 **-13 %

Percent full = 0.00000000000004%

If 0.0000000000004% of the hydrogen atom is filled, then the rest must be empty:

Percent empty = 100% – Percent full

Blank percentage = 100% – 0.0000000000004%

Percent blank = 99.9999999999996%

A hydrogen atom is about 99.9999999999996% empty space. Put another way, if a hydrogen atom were the size of the Earth, the proton would be about 200 meters (600 feet) from its center. While I wouldn’t want something that big to fall on my head, it is small compared to the size of the floor.

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