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The atomic number of an element is the number of protons in the
nucleus of an atom of that element. Each element is identified by its
atomic number. For example, the atomic number of carbon is 6. Every
atom of carbon contains 6 protons in its nucleus. If an atom does not
have 6 protons, then it is not an atom of carbon. Adding or removing
protons from the nucleus of an atom creates a different element.
For example, adding a proton to an atom of carbon creates an atom of
nitrogen (atomic number 7). Thus, the number of protons determines an
elements identity.
The valence electrons are the electrons in the last energy level of an
atom. These are the electrons an atom gains or loses in a chemical
reaction. They combine with valence electrons of other atoms to form
chemical bonds. Therefore, valence electrons are important in
determining the chemical properties of an element.
The number of valence electrons of an element is determined by its
placement on the Periodic Table. Elements in the same group generally
have the same number of valence electrons. Elements in Group 1 have 1
valence electron. Hydrogen, lithium, and sodium each have 1 valence
electron. Elements in Group 14 have 4 valence electrons. Carbon and
silicon each have 4 valence electrons.
The number of valence electrons increases moving from left to right
across the Periodic Table (groups 1 and 2 and 13-18). An elements
valence shell is full and most stable when it contains 8 electrons, which
corresponds to the same electron configuration as a noble gas. This
stability is the reason noble gases are so unreactive.
The Octet Rule is a general rule stating atoms tend to combine in a way
that leaves 8 electrons in their valence shells. As a result, atoms
generally react by gaining, losing, or sharing electrons in order to
achieve a complete octet of valence electrons. Reactions occur either
ionically or covalently.
For example, elements in Group 1 are highly reactive with elements in
Group 17. Sodium, with 1 valence electron, reacts with chlorine, which

has 7 valence electrons and forms the stable compound sodium chloride
(1 + 7 = 8). The Periodic Table is used to predict the properties of an
element based on its location on the table. Elements are arranged by
increasing atomic number. Elements are located within a group (column)
and a period (row) on the table based on their properties. Periodicity
refers to the fact the Periodic Table is made up of repeating and
predictable patterns that conform to certain rules. Elements within the
same group have the same electron configuration in their valence shell.
This is an important factor determining their similar properties.
Elements tend to gain or lose valence electrons to achieve stable octet
formation. Electrons are added one at a time moving from left to right
across a period. As this happens, the electrons of the outermost shell
experience increasingly strong nuclear attraction, so the electrons
become closer to the nucleus. Moving down a column, the outermost
electrons become less tightly bound to the nucleus. This is because the
number of filled principal energy levels increases downward within each
These trends help explain the periodicity seen in other elemental
properties. In moving from top to bottom down a group, the atomic
radius increases, ionization energy decreases and electro-negativity also
decreases. In moving from left to right across periods, atomic radius
decreases, ionization energy increases, and electro-negativity also