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Science

Atoms

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Atoms consist of electrons surrounding a nucleus that contains protons and neutrons. Neutrons are neutral, but protons and electrons are electrically charged: protons have a relative charge of +1 and electrons have a relative charge of -1.

Atoms and elements

All substances are made of tiny particles called atoms. An element is a substance that is made of only one sort of atom. There are about 100 different elements. These are shown in the periodic table, which is a chart with all the elements arranged in a particular way. The horizontal rows in the periodic table are called periods and the vertical columns are called groups. The elements in a group have similar properties to each other.

Metals and non-metals

The metals are shown on the left of the periodic table, and the non-metals are shown on the right. The dividing line between metals and non-metals is shown in red on the table below. You can see that most of the elements are metals.

The periodic table, with non-metals on the left and metals on the right

The periodic table divided into non-metals and metals

Chemical symbols

The atoms of each element are represented by a chemical symbol. This usually consists of one or two different letters, but sometimes three letters are used for newly discovered elements. For example, O represents an oxygen atom, and Na represents a sodium atom.

The first letter in a chemical symbol is always an UPPERCASE letter, and the other letters are always lowercase. So, the symbol for a magnesium atom is Mg and not mg, MG or mG.

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