Kids Chemistry: Atoms Around Us

The atom, the basic building block of matter, consists of a core nucleus surrounded by negatively charged electrons. Everything in the world is made up of atoms, and while there are many different types of atoms in the universe they are all built the same way; with electrons, protons, and neutrons. When talking about atoms, you often hear the term elements. Elements are the building blocks of all matter, and matter is the stuff around us that is used to create atoms. So atoms create elements, and elements create molecules. Everything in the world is built by using something else. While atoms make up every object in the world, they are so small by themselves that you can’t see them without the help of a special microscope called an electron microscope. In fact, atoms are so small that one drop of water contains over a million atoms and molecules.

Subatomic particles, a scientific term for electrons, protons, and neutrons, are the individual atomic components that determine classification of certain molecules. These particles are considered the three parts that make up an atom. The protons and neutrons of an atom are always in the center or nucleus of the atom while the electrons are found buzzing around the nucleus in areas called orbitals. Electrons are particles of atoms that have a negative charge. Protons are particles of atoms that have a positive charge, and neutrons have a neutral or no charge. If an atom contains an equal number of electrons and protons then the charge will cancel each other out to create an atom with a neutral charge. An atom has a negative charge if it has more electrons than protons and a positive charge if it has more protons than electrons.

Matter is the stuff all around us; everything in the world is made up of matter. Matter comes in three main states, including solids, liquids, and gases. Let’s take water for example, in its solid state it would be ice, in its liquid state it would be water, and in its gas state it will be steam or water vapor. Matter can change states and this is done based on temperature. When the temperature of water is lowered it turns into its solid state of ice and when the temperature is increased it turns into steam or water vapor.

Atoms and molecules are the building blocks that create the necessary states of matter that allow life to function. In fact, atoms and molecules make up everything around us, including our own bodies. The subatomic particles of an atom allow the universe to evolve. The spinning and binding of atoms to create elements that react with other elements are the primary cause of an ever-evolving universe with ecosystems, populations, biospheres, planets, planetary and star systems, and galaxies that exist within it. Science continues to develop more and complex theories and discoveries that attempt to unravel the mysteries of the universe that began with non-reactive subatomic particles, which eventually began its creation of an unforeseen matrix around us.