ATOMIC NATURE OF MATTER
Atomic and Nuclear Physics
Properties of the three subatomic particles are listed in Table 1.
Properties of Subatomic Particles
Shells around nucleus
Measuring Units on the Atomic Scale
The size and mass of atoms are so small that the use of normal measuring units, while possible,
is often inconvenient. Units of measure have been defined for mass and energy on the atomic
scale to make measurements more convenient to express. The unit of measure for mass is the
atomic mass unit (amu). One atomic mass unit is equal to 1.66 x 10-24 grams. The reason for
this particular value for the atomic mass unit will be discussed in a later chapter. Note from
Table 1 that the mass of a neutron and a proton are both about 1 amu. The unit for energy is
the electron volt (eV). The electron volt is the amount of energy acquired by a single electron
when it falls through a potential difference of one volt. One electron volt is equivalent to
1.602 x 10-19 joules or 1.18 x 10-19 foot-pounds.
The total number of protons in the nucleus of an atom is called the atomic number of the atom
and is given the symbol Z. The number of electrons in an electrically-neutral atom is the same
as the number of protons in the nucleus. The number of neutrons in a nucleus is known as the
neutron number and is given the symbol N. The mass number of the nucleus is the total number
of nucleons, that is, protons and neutrons in the nucleus. The mass number is given the symbol
A and can be found by the equation Z + N = A.
Each of the chemical elements has a unique atomic number because the atoms of different
elements contain a different number of protons. The atomic number of an atom identifies the