What is the Smallest Particle of an Element?

2,465 Views Updated: 18 Mar 2018
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What is the Smallest Particle of an Element?

As we all know that an element is made up of an atom. As a result of this, atom is also commonly held as the smallest particle of an element. However, it was discovered in 1911 by Ernest Rutherford that an atom itself has different parts namely, electrons, protons, and neutrons. Moreover, there may also be a further division of these parts. This even more diminutive particle is called a quark.

To provide you with more details, here is some more information on the smallest particles of an element.

#1. Electrons

An electron is the part which provides the atom with its charge. You can make an atom positively or negatively charged by changing the number of electrons. While more electrons imply a negatively charged element, less number of electrons would mean positively charged element. It is also interesting to note that electrons revolve around the nucleus of an atom and can even bond with other atoms to form a compound.

electrons

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#2. Protons

While electrons determine the charge of an element, protons are known to determine the mass of an element. In fact, electrons have quite an inconsequential amount of mass when compared to protons. Stationed at the nucleus of an atom, the positively charged protons help in the classification of an element as an element is categorized in accordance with, the number of protons its atom contains.

protons

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#3. Neutrons

Like protons, electrons are massive and are placed at the nucleus of an atom. What makes neutrons distinctive is their lack of charge. While electrons and neutrons have negative and positive charge respectively, neutrons have no charge at all. Changing the amount of neutrons has no impact on the element. However, a change in the number of neutrons is capable of making isotopes.

smallest particle of an element

(Image Courtesy: Isaac's Science Blog)

#4. Quarks

Electrons and protons are further classified into different parts called quarks, which are the smallest known particle of an element. Quarks were first discovered in the year 1961 and are of six types namely, up, down, charm, strange, bottom, and top. While a quark trio can combine to form a together, a quark can also combine with an anti-quark to form a mason. However, such a combination lacks stability and may last only for a small fraction of seconds.

quarks

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