What is an Atom? Understanding its constituents and structure

Know About the Constituents and Structure of an Atom!

We often discuss the highest, largest, tallest, and superlatives during our daily conversation but we forget about what is the smallest basic constituent of a substance. In other words, we can say that many times, we don’t have the basic idea of an atom. Today, we will discuss what are the constituents and structure of an atom.

What is an Atom?

While defining Atom we can say that an Atom occurs when Electrons, a compact nucleus of protons and neutrons altogether combines to form the smallest constituent unit of any matter that contains the characteristics of a chemical element. Here it is important to note that neutralized or ionized atoms are present in every solid, liquid, gas and plasma.

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Structure of an Atom

An atom is made up of Electrons, Protons, and Neutrons which are even made of smaller particles known as Quarks. Protons and Neutrons are present in the core of an atom often known as Nucleus whereas the Electrons revolve around the Nucleus. Where Protons are positively charged, Neutrons are neutral charge and Electrons are negatively charged. The Proton and Neutron have their weights equal to that of hydrogen. The weight of the Electron is 1/1850 th of hydrogen.

The mass of an atom is present in the center called a Nucleus where Protons and Neutrons reside. And the space present in atom other than the Nucleus is occupied by the Electrons where it revolves which sometimes called Extra Nuclear Space. Shell is the path where an electron completes its orbit. These shells are in the alphabetical order K, L, M, N where K is the very nest shell to the nucleus whereas N is the outermost. Further, these shells have their subshells or orbitals where the distribution of electrons is known as Electronic Configuration.

 Atomic Number and Mass Number

The number of positive charges carried by the nucleus is called as Atomic Number which is presented by the symbol Z. The atomic number can also be referred to as the number of protons or number of electrons present in a neutral atom.

The total number of protons and neutrons available in the atom is termed as the mass number of an atom.

Periodic Table

Few related terms to keep in mind


Are those chemical elements that possess the same chemical properties but differs in mass because of having the same number of protons and electrons but a different number of neutrons.


If an atom has the same mass number but a totally different atomic number, we can say that both the elements are isobars for e.g 40S, 40Cl, 40Ar, 40K, etc.


Isotones are nuclides of atoms which differs in atomic number and atomic mass but posses the same number of neutrons for e.g.  We can say that chlorine-37 and potassium-39 are isotones, since the nucleus of chlorine consists of 17 protons and 20 neutrons; whereas the nucleus of potassium contains 19 protons and 20 neutrons and they both are having the same numbers of neutrons here.

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Isodiaphers are atoms which have an equal difference between protons and neutrons or we can say the same neutron excess, for e.g let’s take 90Th234 and 92U238. Here in thorium proton number is 90 and neutron number is 144 so 144-90 = 54 the Neutron Excess. In uranium, proton number is 92 and neutron number is 146, here also 146 – 92 = 54 is the Neutron Excess. Hence we can say that Thorium and Uranium are the Isodiaphers.


Those molecules or ions have the same number of atoms and electrons are known to be as Isosteres for e.g Benzene (C6H6) and Borazine (B3N3H6) both contains 12 atoms and 42 electrons.

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