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Atomic structure

The atom
Rutherford proposed a nuclear model of the atom in which all the positive charge and most of the mass of an atom formed a dense core or nucleus, of very small size compared to the whole atom.

Isotopes and nuclides


Isotopes of an element are atoms which have the same number protons but different numbers of neutrons. Isotopes have identical chemical properties and occupy the same place in the Periodic Table. Hydrogen has three isotopes: H with 1 proton, deuterium with 1 proton and 1 neutron and tritium with 1 proton and 2 neutrons. An atom that is specified by its proton number and nucleon number is called a nuclide. Nuclides with the same Z but different A are isotopes. Most of the naturally occurring isotopes are stable. A few are unstable and all of the man-made isotopes are unstable and emit radiation. Radioactive isotopes ere termed radioisotopes or radionuclides; their nuclei are unstable. Unstable isotopes can become stable by releasing different types of particles. This process is called radioactive decay. It results in the emission of alpha, beta particles or gamma rays.

Atoms contain three basic particles protons, neutrons and electrons.

A proton is a positive hydrogen ion. Its charge is equal in size but in sign to that of an electron, but its mass is 2000 times greater. A neutron is uncharged with almost the same mass as a proton. Protons and neutrons are in the nucleus and are called nucleons. Together they make up the mass of the atom. In a neutral atom, the number of protons is equal to the number of electrons surrounding the nucleus. The atomic or proton number Z of an atom is the number of protons in the nucleus. It is also the number of electrons in the atom. The electrons determine the chemical properties of an atom. The mass or nucleon number A of an atom is the number of nucleons in the nucleus. In general:

where N is the neutron number.