Atom vs. Molecule

By Jaxson

Main Difference

The main difference between Atom and Molecule is that the Atom is a smallest indivisible unit of a chemical substance and Molecule is a electrically neutral entity consisting of more than one atom (n > 1); rigorously, a molecule, in which n > 1 must correspond to a depression on the potential energy surface that is deep enough to confine at least one vibrational state

  • Atom

    An atom is the smallest constituent unit of ordinary matter that constitutes a chemical element. Every solid, liquid, gas, and plasma is composed of neutral or ionized atoms. Atoms are extremely small; typical sizes are around 100 picometers (1×10−10 m, a ten-millionth of a millimeter, or 1/254,000,000 of an inch). They are so small that accurately predicting their behavior using classical physics – as if they were billiard balls, for example – is not possible. This is due to quantum effects. Current atomic models now use quantum principles to better explain and predict this behavior.

    Every atom is composed of a nucleus and one or more electrons bound to the nucleus. The nucleus is made of one or more protons and a number of neutrons. Only the most common variety of hydrogen has no neutrons. Protons and neutrons are called nucleons. More than 99.94% of an atom’s mass is in the nucleus. The protons have a positive electric charge whereas the electrons have a negative electric charge. The neutrons have no electric charge. If the number of protons and electrons are equal, then the atom is electrically neutral. If an atom has more or fewer electrons than protons, then it has an overall negative or positive charge, respectively. These atoms are called ions.

    The electrons of an atom are attracted to the protons in an atomic nucleus by the electromagnetic force. The protons and neutrons in the nucleus are attracted to each other by the nuclear force. This force is usually stronger than the electromagnetic force that repels the positively charged protons from one another. Under certain circumstances, the repelling electromagnetic force becomes stronger than the nuclear force. In this case, the nucleus shatters and leaves behind different elements. This is a kind of nuclear decay. All electrons, nucleons, and nuclei alike are subatomic particles. The behavior of electrons in atoms is closer to a wave than a particle.

    The number of protons in the nucleus, called the atomic number, defines to which chemical element the atom belongs. For example, each copper atom contains 29 protons. The number of neutrons defines the isotope of the element. Atoms can attach to one or more other atoms by chemical bonds to form chemical compounds such as molecules or crystals. The ability of atoms to associate and dissociate is responsible for most of the physical changes observed in nature. Chemistry is the discipline that studies these changes.

  • Molecule

    A molecule is an electrically neutral group of two or more atoms held together by chemical bonds. Molecules are distinguished from ions by their lack of electrical charge. However, in quantum physics, organic chemistry, and biochemistry, the term molecule is often used less strictly, also being applied to polyatomic ions.

    In the kinetic theory of gases, the term molecule is often used for any gaseous particle regardless of its composition. According to this definition, noble gas atoms are considered molecules as they are monatomic molecules.A molecule may be homonuclear, that is, it consists of atoms of one chemical element, as with oxygen (O2); or it may be heteronuclear, a chemical compound composed of more than one element, as with water (H2O). Atoms and complexes connected by non-covalent interactions, such as hydrogen bonds or ionic bonds, are typically not considered single molecules.Molecules as components of matter are common in organic substances (and therefore biochemistry). They also make up most of the oceans and atmosphere. However, the majority of familiar solid substances on Earth, including most of the minerals that make up the crust, mantle, and core of the Earth, contain many chemical bonds, but are not made of identifiable molecules. Also, no typical molecule can be defined for ionic crystals (salts) and covalent crystals (network solids), although these are often composed of repeating unit cells that extend either in a plane (such as in graphene) or three-dimensionally (such as in diamond, quartz, or sodium chloride). The theme of repeated unit-cellular-structure also holds for most condensed phases with metallic bonding, which means that solid metals are also not made of molecules. In glasses (solids that exist in a vitreous disordered state), atoms may also be held together by chemical bonds with no presence of any definable molecule, nor any of the regularity of repeating units that characterizes crystals.

  • Atom (noun)

    The smallest possible amount of matter which still retains its identity as a chemical element, now known to consist of a nucleus surrounded by electrons. from 16th c.

  • Atom (noun)

    A hypothetical particle posited by Greek philosophers as an ultimate and indivisible component of matter. from 15th c.

  • Atom (noun)

    The smallest, indivisible constituent part or unit of something. from 17th c.

  • Atom (noun)

    The smallest medieval unit of time, equal to fifteen ninety-fourths of a second. from 10th c.

  • Atom (noun)

    A mote of dust in a sunbeam. from 16th c.

  • Atom (noun)

    A very small amount; a whit. from 17th c.

  • Atom (noun)

    An individual number or symbol, as opposed to a list; a scalar value. from 20th c.

  • Atom (noun)

    A non-zero member of a Boolean algebra that is not a union of any other elements. Or, a non-zero member of a Boolean lattice that has only zero below it. from 20th c.

    “In a Venn diagram, an atom is depicted as an area circumscribed by lines but not cut by any line.”

  • Atom (noun)

    An element of a set that is not itself a set; an urelement. from 20th c.

  • Atom (noun)

    A member of an age group division in hockey for ten- to 11-year-olds.

  • Molecule (noun)

    The smallest particle of a specific element or compound that retains the chemical properties of that element or compound; two or more atoms held together by chemical bonds.

    “Hydrogen chloride is a diatomic molecule, consisting of a hydrogen atom and a chlorine atom.”

  • Molecule (noun)

    A tiny amount.


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