Energy Created By The Flow Of Electrons Through A Conductor What Goes On Inside The Atom – How Atoms Affect The Characteristics We See In A Substance

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What Goes On Inside The Atom – How Atoms Affect The Characteristics We See In A Substance

The chemical properties of a substance (in other words, with which other atoms it will bond, whether it is liquid at room temperature, whether it is flammable, and so on) are essentially decided by the electrons at the outermost energy level of the atom. As we described in the first part of this series, the electrons surrounding an atom cannot have any energy, but are instead grouped into separate energy levels; electrons in the outermost energy level tend to be further away from the nucleus and more weakly bound to it. Therefore, the outermost electrons will be the first to escape from the atom if the atom comes into contact with a sufficiently strong external force.

The important principle here is that atoms are most stable when they have energy levels that are full of electrons. Equally important is the fact that atoms at least stable when the outermost energy level is nearly empty or nearly full. These unstable atoms can form bonds with other unstable atoms so that they all become stable, and the result is called a molecule.

There are different ways in which atoms can bond together. It is the most common covalent bonding, which can occur when an atom with nearly full energy levels comes into contact with another atom with nearly full levels. Atoms ‘share’ their outer electrons in such a way that both of their outer energy levels are filled. The attraction between the two atoms comes from the fact that both positively charged nuclei are now attracted to the outer electrons. A covalent bond can take place between more than two atoms: for example, two hydrogen atoms covalently bond with oxygen to form water.

If an atom has only one electron in its outer energy level and comes into contact with another atom that needs one electron to fill its outer energy level, then an electron from the first atom can travel to the second atom so that both have a full outer energy level. However, now the first atom is positively charged and the second negatively charged, so they both attract each other. This is called ionic bonding and occurs with sodium and chloride in the case of salts. A pure ionic bond has never been found in nature, it is generally mixed to a greater or lesser degree with a covalent bond.

in addition, atoms and molecules of the same species can also combine without losing their individual identity. They form solids if the bonds between the atoms are strong enough that each atom cannot move. Heating the solid adds energy to each of the atoms. If enough energy is added, the bond between the atoms could be loosened enough to allow the atoms to move with the bonds: this is the liquid state. Alternatively, a chemical reaction may occur, releasing a lot of heat and light: in other words, the solid could burst into flames! Whether one or the other happens depends on the structure of the atoms or molecules and the availability of other atoms to fuel any chemical reaction (ie a wood fire needs a lot of oxygen). Similarly, if enough energy is added to a liquid, all bonds can be broken and the atoms or molecules move freely in the gaseous state.

A unique type of bonding is found in metals, where all the atoms are arranged in a lattice and all share electrons that move around freely. Because atoms donate these ‘free electrons’, they are positively charged and therefore strongly attracted to these electrons. Since electricity involves the flow of electrons, this makes metals very good conductors. Also, since the atoms are arranged in a lattice, this allows the vibrations caused by heating to spread much faster, which makes metals also very good conductors of heat. Metal joining also gives metals other properties such as the ability to bend and hammer into any shape and their shiny surface.

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