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Difference between Element and Compound

We have learnt a lot of terms in chemistry. Out of these, elements and compounds are one of the significant topics in science. Chemistry comprises of periodic tables, chemical formulas, substances, etc. But let us discuss about elements and compounds. Now, what do they mean?


Elements are defined as chemical substances that have the same atoms (atoms with the same atomic number). An element is considered as a pure substance. The atomic number of the atoms lays emphasis on the number of protons present in an atom's nuclei. There are three kinds of chemical elements, i.e., metals, non-metals, and metalloids.

Element vs Compound


On the other hand, Compounds are defined as substances that have two or more elements joined together. These elements are in a fixed ratio in compounds. Compounds have a chemical formula. For instance, H2O is the chemical formula of water. In the given formula, we can clearly see that there are two atoms of hydrogen that are bound together with one atom of oxygen.

Now, what are the points of contrast between compounds and elements? The points of difference are given below.

1. Elements are defined as pure substances that include atoms having the same atomic number. Compounds are defined as substances that include two or more elements joined together.
2. There are a total of 117 elements. Out of these 117 elements, 94 are natural. There is no count of compounds. They are endless.
3. There are three kinds of elements, i.e., metals, non-metals, and metalloids. Compounds are divided based on their bonds. The bonds can be ionic, metallic, or molecular.
4. The chemical elements have numbers and symbols. For instance, the chemical formula of sodium is Na. Compounds only have chemical formulas. For instance, the chemical formula of salt is NaCl.
5. As stated before, the atoms of an element have the same atomic number. Compounds include the elements that have a fixed ratio. They are definite in nature.
6. The properties of an element are represented by one atom. On the other hand, a compound is represented by the same kind of molecules.
7. The chemical reactions cannot break or divide the elements. Compounds can be separated easily by different chemical reactions.
8. Examples:
  • Hydrogen
  • Helium
  • Neon
  • Carbon
  • Nitrogen
  • Gold
  • Lead
  • Magnesium
  • Boron
  • Platinum
  • Sodium
  • Water (H2O)
  • Hydrogen Peroxide (H2O2)
  • Salt (NaCl)
  • Octane (C8H18)
  • Baking Soda (NaHCO3)
  • Sulphuric Acid (H2SO4)
  • Acetic Acid (C2H4O2)
  • Alcohol (C2H6O)
  • Ammonia (NH3)
  • Methane (CH4)
  • Nitrous Oxide (N2O)
9. Elements have a set of properties. On the other hand, compounds differ in their characteristics, unlike elements.

So, these are some points of contrast between elements and compounds. Now, let us look at some of the key points regarding elements and compounds.

  1. Elements are pure substances consisting of atoms of one kind. The elements have the same number of protons present in them.
  2. Compounds are complex substances that are formed with the help of molecules. Compounds comprise of two or more kinds of elements. They form covalent or ionic bonds.
  3. Elements cannot be segregated into tiny units without energy. But compounds can be easily broken into units through chemical reactions.
  4. The matter is divided into two categories, i.e., pure substances and mixtures. These pure substances are further divided into two parts, namely elements and compounds.

So, these are some critical points regarding compounds and elements. As stated above, there are three types of elements. Let us discuss them in detail.

1. Metals:

  • The periodic table contains a majority of metals.
  • Metals comprise of alkali metals, actinides, transition metals, earth metals, etc.
  • Metals and non-metals are divided through a zigzag line in the periodic table.
  • The elements between them are carbon, radon, phosphorous, selenium, etc.
  • Elements present on the left side of the periodic tables are called metalloids/ semi-metals.
  • Metalloids have characteristics and functions of both metals and non-metals.

2. Non-Metals:

  • There are very few non-metals present as per the periodic table.
  • The elements containing non-metals are positioned on the right of the periodic table.
  • Examples of non-metals are sulphur, carbon, selenium, nitrogen, halogen, and hydrogen.

3. Metalloids:

  • Metalloids are defined as the small set of elements that divide non-metals and metals in the periodic table.
  • Examples of metalloids include Boron, Arsenic, Tellurium, Polonium, Antimony, etc.

So, these are some types of elements. Now, let us look at some kinds of compounds.

1. Binary Compound: A binary compound is defined as a compound that is formed with two different types of atoms.

  • Non-Metal + Metal = Ionic Compound
  • Metal + Metal = Metallic Compound
  • Non-Metal + Non-Metal = Covalent Compound

2. Ions: An ion is a group of atoms that goes under an electric charge. The ions are further divided into positive charged and negatively charged ions called cations and anions. Cations are defined as the positively charged ions that move towards the negative pole. When a compound loses its elements, they form cations. On the other hand, anions are the negatively charged ions that move towards a positive pole. In this process, they gain electrons and become anions. Examples: calcium bromide (CaBr2) and sodium chloride (NaCl).

3. Molecular Compounds: The combination of different non-metals is called molecular compounds. A molecular compound consists of two elements. For instance, water is a molecular compound with the chemical formula (H2O)

  • The molecular compounds are quite easy to identify.
  • They are non-conducive to electricity.
  • Examples of molecular compounds include water (H2O) and Methane (CH4).

So, these are the essential kinds of compounds in chemistry. Elements and compounds are significant parts of chemistry. Both are different in their own sense. It is important to note that elements and compounds are similar in one aspect, i.e., they both are pure substances. They differ in several aspects, too, that are mentioned above. Thus, elements and compounds are important for carrying out the experiments.

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