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Difference Between Atom and Element

When studying chemistry, terms like elements and atoms are most commonly utilized. However, as the issue grows more complex, the underlying science tends to get more difficult. Additionally, terminology like "atom" and "element" might be misunderstood. Consequently, it is crucial to comprehend the distinction between elements and atoms.

Difference Between Atom and Element

Before we go on to the key differences, let us take a closer look at the meanings of these terms. An element is simply a chemical molecule made up of only one or a certain type of atom that is pure or unprocessed. An element is categorized based on its atomic number. They are grouped into three groups on the periodic table: metals, metalloids, and non-metals. An atom may be thought of as the smallest component of an element when speaking of them. These are the purest kind of stuff. On the other hand, an atom has a unique name, mass, and size.

Atoms and molecules follow the rules of physics and chemistry even though they are a component of a complex, living, breathing creature. The information you learned about how some atoms or molecules tend to gain or lose electrons or form bonds with one another is still valid even when the atoms or molecules are part of a living entity. In reality, whether in a single cell or a larger organism, the simplest of atom-to-atom interactions, repeated countless times and in several different configurations, are what allow life to exist. Everything that you are, including your awareness, may have been created by the chemical and electrical interactions of a very, very large number of nonliving atoms.


The tiniest units of all known stuff are called atoms. The protons, electrons, and neutrons that make up an atom are subatomic particles. The four different states of matter are solid, liquid, gas, and plasma. Atoms that have been ionized form plasma.

Depending on the kind of atom, every atom has a nucleus that has a certain number of electrons circling it. The nucleus is made up of protons and neutrons. Protons have a positive charge, while neutrons have a neutral charge. The result is a positive charge throughout the whole nucleus.

Particles having a negative charge are called electrons. They orbit the nucleus because of the attraction of particles with opposing charges. When the number of protons and electrons are not equal, the atom has a charge and is referred to as an ion. If an atom contains more protons than electrons, it is said to be positively charged; if not, it is said to be negatively charged.

A substance's properties are determined by the sort of atoms present. The strong nuclear force holds protons and neutrons together inside the atomic nucleus of an atom. Atoms are joined together by a number of bonds, including covalent and ionic ones, to form matter. All atoms are categorized according to their atomic number, which is equal to the number of protons in them.

The word "atomic mass" refers to an atom's mass. It is necessary to know how many protons and neutrons are present in order to calculate an atom's mass. Protons and neutrons make up the majority of an atom's mass. Atoms can work together in large groups to form compounds. A molecule is another term for an atom cluster.

Atoms are rearranged during chemical reactions. The atomic structure has been the subject of several scientific hypotheses. Mole units are used to quantify the number of atoms.

What an Atom is Made Of?

The smallest piece of stuff that nevertheless possesses all of an element's chemical characteristics is an atom. For instance, a gold coin is nothing more than a very large number of gold atoms that have been formed into a coin while still containing minute amounts of other, contaminating elements. A gold atom's properties are derived from the tiny subatomic particles that compose it.

There are two separate parts to each atom. The first is the tiny atomic nucleus, which is in the center of the atom and is made up of neutrons, which are neutral, and positively charged particles called protons.

The second and far larger section of the atom is called the "electron cloud," which is a collection of negatively charged particles orbiting the nucleus. The atom is held together by the attraction between the negatively charged electrons and positively charged protons. Protons, electrons, and neutrons are the three main subatomic particle types present in atoms. Normal elements have both protons and neutrons in the nucleus, but hydrogen (H) is an exception since it lacks neutrons. The quantity of electrons around an atom's nucleus dictates the kind of reactions it will undergo, and the number of protons in its nucleus determines its atomic number.

Although they do not have the same charge, protons and neutrons have a mass of roughly 1.67 x 10 -24 grams. Since grammes are not a very useful unit for measuring quantities this small, scientists decided to create the Dalton or atomic mass unit as an alternative measurement (amu). The weight of a single neutron or proton is extremely close to that of an amu. Being just around 1/1800 of an atomic mass unit heavier than protons, electrons do not significantly add to an element's total atomic mass. However, electrons do significantly affect an atom's charge since they each carry a negative charge that is equivalent to the positive charge of a proton. A neutral, uncharged atom has an equal amount of protons in its nucleus and electrons around it. An atom has no net charge because the positive and negative charges balance one another out.

Because protons, neutrons, and electrons are so tiny, more than 99 percent of an atom's volume is essentially empty space. You might wonder why supposedly solid items don't simply flow through one another given all the empty space. The reason for our feeling of solidity is that negatively charged atom electron clouds will reject one another if they are placed too close together.

Atoms contain a variety of particles that are free to move about inside them, just like everything else. These subatomic particles consist of neutrons, which have no charge; protons which have a positive charge, and electrons which have a negative charge.

The atom's atomic nucleus, which is made up of protons and neutrons and is orbited by electrons; is comparable to the planets orbiting the sun.


Anything with just one type of atom is considered to be an element. An element's atoms all have the same number of protons in their nuclei. Most of the elements are naturally found together in combination on the earth. Pure forms of most elements are rare. Isotopes are substances that share the same atomic number but have different amounts of neutrons.

Allotropy is the process by which atoms of the same element mix with one another to create several compounds with diverse chemical structures. Metals, non-metals, and metalloids are additional divisions of the elemental elements.

By means of common chemical processes, elements can be broken down into simpler substances. On earth, some elements are abundant, while others are only found in trace amounts. Some substances are artificial and do not exist in nature. Some substances are radioactive and release electromagnetic particles.

Gold is an example of an element. A piece of pure gold would be an element if you were to hold it in your hand.

Atomic Number and Elements

The number of protons in the nuclei of every atom distinguishes the atomic number of every element. While you can locate all of them on the periodic table, let's focus on mercury and copper as they both are common elements.

The element mercury has an 80-proton in the nucleus. Its atomic number is 80. Likewise, 29 protons make up the nucleus of the atoms that make up copper. So, the atomic number of copper is 29.

Main Variations between Atoms and Elements

The most basic form of any substance is an element. Since they cannot be divided or broken into smaller pieces, they are the purest form of a substance. But according to science, an element could consist of ions, molecules, or even atoms. The majority of the time and for simplicity, elements are created from just one kind of atom. If an element derives from steel, it will solely have steel atoms as its constituents. As a result, the smallest component or quantity of an element is an atom. This is the main distinction between an atom and an element.

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