What makes an atom stable

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What Makes an Atom Stable?

what makes an atom stable

Nuclear Stability

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An atom can be considered unstable in one of two ways. If it picks up or loses an electron, it becomes electrically charged and highly reactive. Such electrically charged atoms are known as ions. Instability can also occur in the nucleus when the number of protons and neutrons is unbalanced. In an effort to achieve equilibrium, the atom emits particles in the form of radiation until the nucleus is stable.

An atom is electrically neutral. It contains an equal number of positively charged protons and negatively charged electrons and their charges balance. The nucleus however contains only positively charged protons which are closely packed together in a very small volume remember neutrons have no charge. The combined gravitational force from the protons and neutrons in a nucleus is insignificant as an attractive force because their masses are so tiny. This implies there must be an additional attractive force similar in size to the electrostatic repulsion which holds the nucleus together. A strong force must exist between the protons and neutrons in a nucleus to overcome the electrostatic repulsion between the protons.

Protons and Electrons. For every proton in an atomic center, somewhere, in an orbital, there will be an electron. Atoms differ from one another in the number of protons, neutrons and electrons they contain. However their arrangement always follows the same set of principles. A Matter of Stability. Hydrogen and helium illustrate the fact that not all atoms have the same properties.

After reading this section you will be able to do the following:. How do atomic particles interact? There are forces within the atom that account for the behavior of the protons, neutrons, and electrons. Without these forces, an atom could not stay together. Recall that protons have a positive charge, electrons a negative charge, and neutrons are neutral. According to the laws of physics, like charges repel each other and unlike charges attract each other.


By definition, an atom is electrically neutral i. If a species were charged, it is referred to as an ion cation for positively charged and anion for negatively charged species , also by definition.

Atoms found in nature are either stable or unstable. An atom is stable if the forces among the particles that makeup the nucleus are balanced. An atom is unstable radioactive if these forces are unbalanced; if the nucleus has an excess of internal energy. Instability of an atom's nucleus may result from an excess of either neutrons or protons. A radioactive atom will attempt to reach stability by ejecting nucleons protons or neutrons , as well as other particles, or by releasing energy in other forms.

Electrons have a charge of Neutrons are neutral, as its name implies. A stable atom has a net charge of 0. In other words, it has an equal number of protons and electrons. The positive protons cancel out the negative electrons. When the number of electrons does not equal the number of protons, the atom is ionized. The atom is then called an ion.

An atom is stable because of a balanced nucleus that does not contain excess energy. If the forces between the protons and the neutrons in the nucleus are unbalanced, then the atom is unstable. Stable atoms retain their form indefinitely, while unstable atoms undergo radioactive decay. Most naturally occurring atoms are stable and do not decay. The nucleus of an atom is made up of protons and neutrons. The forces inside the nucleus of a stable atom are balanced because the nucleus contains the proper number of protons and neutrons. These atoms are theoretically resistant to all forms of decay except proton decay, which is a hypothetical form of decay that has never been observed in a laboratory or in nature.







4 thoughts on “What makes an atom stable

  1. Explain what is meant by a stable atom and and an unstable atom. How do atomic So what makes the protons stay together in an atom? A force called the .

  2. The Atom Builder Guide to Building a Stable Atom. Animation of a Carbon atom that shows charges of electrons, protons, and neutrons, When building an atom.

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