Team Chemistry -
Created by: Team Chemistry -, Last Updated: May 21, 2024


In Chemistry, everything around us is made up of tiny building blocks called particles. These particles can be atoms, molecules, or ions, and they are incredibly small, often invisible to the naked eye. Atoms are the basic units of matter and combine to form molecules, which make up different substances. Ions are charged particles that form when atoms gain or lose electrons. Understanding particles helps us grasp how substances interact, change, and form new materials.

What is a Particle?

A particle is a small piece of matter that makes up everything in the universe. Particles can be atoms, molecules, or subatomic particles like protons, neutrons, and electrons. These tiny units are the building blocks of all substances, both living and non-living. Atoms combine to form molecules, which in turn make up the materials we see and use every day. Understanding particles helps us explain the properties and behaviors of different materials.

Formula of Particle

To find the number of particles in a substance, we use the formula:

Number of particles = moles × 6.022 × 10²³

This formula tells us that if we know how many moles of a substance we have, we can multiply that number by Avogadro’s number (6.022 x 10²³) to get the total number of particles. Avogadro’s number is a constant that represents the number of atoms, molecules, or ions in one mole of a substance. This calculation is essential for understanding and measuring the amount of matter in chemistry.

Types of Particles


Subatomic Particles

Subatomic particles are the fundamental constituents of atoms. They include:

  • Protons: Positively charged particles found in the nucleus of an atom.
  • Neutrons: Neutrally charged particles located in the nucleus.
  • Electrons: Negatively charged particles orbiting the nucleus.

Atomic Particles

Atomic particles refer to entire atoms and ions. They include:

  • Neutral Atoms: Atoms with equal numbers of protons and electrons, resulting in no overall charge.
  • Ions: Atoms or molecules that have gained or lost one or more electrons, resulting in a net positive or negative charge.

Molecular Particles

Molecular particles are groups of atoms bonded together. They include:

  • Molecules: Two or more atoms covalently bonded together, forming a discrete unit.
  • Compounds: Molecules composed of different types of atoms bonded together.

Composite Particles

Composite particles are particles made up of other particles. They include:

  • Hadrons: Particles made of quarks, held together by the strong force (e.g., protons and neutrons).
  • Leptons: Fundamental particles that do not undergo strong interactions (e.g., electrons, neutrinos).

Elementary Particles

Elementary particles are the most basic building blocks of matter, not made of other particles. They include:

  • Quarks: Fundamental constituents of hadrons.
  • Gluons: Exchange particles for the strong force between quarks.
  • Photons: Particles of light, force carriers for electromagnetic force.
  • Bosons: Force-carrying particles, including the Higgs boson and W and Z bosons.

Examples of Particles

Examples of Particles
  1. Dust Mites: Tiny creatures that thrive in household dust, often found in bedding and upholstered furniture.
  2. Pollen: Microscopic grains released by plants, especially during spring and summer, that can cause allergies.
  3. Aerosol Particles: Tiny liquid or solid particles suspended in the air, such as those in spray deodorants or air fresheners.
  4. Dander: Microscopic flakes of skin shed by animals, commonly found in homes with pets.
  5. Smoke Particles: Tiny solid particles released during the burning of materials such as wood, coal, and tobacco.
  6. Soot: Black carbon particles produced by incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, often seen in urban air pollution.
  7. Volcanic Ash: Fine particles of pulverized rock, minerals, and volcanic glass ejected during volcanic eruptions.
  8. Microplastics: Small plastic fragments less than 5mm in size, commonly found in oceans and other water bodies due to plastic pollution.
  9. Sand: Granular material composed of finely divided rock and mineral particles, found on beaches and deserts.
  10. Salt Crystals: Small cubic particles formed from evaporated sea water or mined from salt deposits.
  11. Clay Particles: Very fine mineral particles that make up soil and can be suspended in water, leading to muddy conditions.
  12. Cement Dust: Fine particles generated during the production and handling of cement in construction activities.
  13. Asbestos Fibers: Tiny, durable fibers previously used in construction materials, which can become airborne and are hazardous when inhaled.
  14. Metal Shavings: Tiny fragments produced during metalworking processes like grinding, cutting, or drilling.
  15. Plastic Pellets: Small, rounded particles used as raw material in the production of plastic goods.
  16. Fiberglass Dust: Fine particles released during the cutting or handling of fiberglass materials, often used in insulation.
  17. Bacteria: Microscopic single-celled organisms, such as E. coli, which can be found in soil, water, and the human body.
  18. Mold Spores: Tiny reproductive units of mold, which can be airborne and thrive in moist environments.
  19. Viruses: Tiny infectious agents, like the influenza virus, that can cause diseases.
  20. Spores: Reproductive particles produced by fungi, such as mold spores, which can be airborne and cause allergies.
  21. Flour Dust: Fine particles created when milling wheat or during baking processes.
  22. Sugar Crystals: Small particles of sucrose, commonly used in cooking and baking.
  23. Cornstarch: Fine powder made from corn, used as a thickening agent in cooking.
  24. Coffee Grounds: Small particles of ground coffee beans, used for brewing coffee.
  25. Breadcrumbs: Small fragments of bread often used in cooking for coating or adding texture to dishes.

Physical Properties of Particles

  • Mass: Particles have mass, which varies depending on the type (e.g., electrons are lighter than protons).
  • Volume: Particles occupy space, though their volume is extremely small.
  • Density: The mass per unit volume of particles determines their density.
  • Charge: Particles can have positive, negative, or neutral charge (e.g., protons are positive, electrons are negative).
  • Size: Particles have different sizes, with subatomic particles being incredibly small.
  • Shape: Particles can have various shapes depending on their arrangement and type.
  • State of Matter: Particles exist in different states (solid, liquid, gas) depending on their energy and arrangement.
  • Intermolecular Forces: The forces between particles affect properties like boiling and melting points.
  • Kinetic Energy: Particles possess kinetic energy that influences their motion and state.
  • Temperature: The motion of particles changes with temperature, affecting their kinetic energy and state.

Size of Particle

The size of a particle varies widely depending on the type of particle. Subatomic particles like protons, neutrons, and electrons are incredibly small, with sizes on the order of femtometers (1 femtometer = 10⁻¹⁵ meters). Atoms, which are made up of these subatomic particles, are larger, typically around 0.1 to 0.5 nanometers (1 nanometer = 10⁻⁹ meters) in diameter. Molecules, which consist of two or more atoms bonded together, can range from less than a nanometer to several nanometers in size.

Particles in a Liquid

In a liquid, the particles (atoms or molecules) are closely packed together but not as tightly as in a solid. They have more freedom to move around, which allows liquids to flow and take the shape of their container. The particles in a liquid are in constant, random motion and can slide past each other. This movement is due to the moderate kinetic energy that liquid particles possess. The intermolecular forces in a liquid are strong enough to keep the particles close but not so strong as to prevent movement. This balance gives liquids their characteristic properties, such as viscosity (resistance to flow) and surface tension.

Particles in a Solid

Particles in a solid are tightly packed together in a fixed, orderly arrangement. They are held in place by strong intermolecular forces, which give solids a definite shape and volume. The particles in a solid vibrate but do not move from their fixed positions, which explains why solids are rigid and incompressible. The lack of movement among particles in a solid means they have low kinetic energy compared to liquids and gases. There are different types of solids, such as crystalline solids, where particles are arranged in a repeating pattern, and amorphous solids, where the arrangement is more random.

Particles in a Gas

Particles in a gas move freely and rapidly in all directions. They have much more kinetic energy compared to particles in solids or liquids, which allows them to overcome intermolecular forces and spread out. This movement causes gas particles to fill any container they are in completely. The particles collide with each other and the walls of the container, creating pressure. Because of the large spaces between them, gas particles can be compressed easily, and they expand to fill any available space. Understanding the behavior of gas particles helps explain properties like pressure, volume, and temperature in gases.

Particles of an Atom

An atom consists of a nucleus and electrons. The nucleus, at the center of the atom, contains protons and neutrons, which are tightly bound together by the strong nuclear force. Protons have a positive charge, and neutrons have no charge. Surrounding the nucleus are electrons, which are negatively charged and occupy regions of space called electron clouds or orbitals. Electrons are much smaller and lighter than protons and neutrons and are held in orbit around the nucleus by the electrostatic force of attraction between the positively charged nucleus and the negatively charged electrons. The arrangement of these particles determines the atom’s properties and its ability to form bonds with other atoms.

How to Teach about The Particles

A particle is a small piece of matter that makes up everything in the universe. Particles can be atoms, molecules, or subatomic particles like protons, neutrons, and electrons.

  1. Use Visual Aids

    Show diagrams and models of atoms, molecules, and ions.

  2. Demonstrate with Experiments

    Conduct simple experiments to illustrate particle behavior in solids, liquids, and gases.

  3. Relate to Everyday Life

    Explain how particles are present in common objects and substances.

  4. Interactive Activities

    Use simulations and interactive tools to visualize particle movement.

  5. Simplify Concepts

    Break down complex ideas into simple, easy-to-understand terms.

  6. Encourage Questions

    Foster a classroom environment where students feel comfortable asking questions.

  7. Use Analogies

    Compare particle behavior to familiar situations, like crowded rooms for gas particles.

  8. Hands-On Learning

    Provide opportunities for students to build their own models of particles.

  9. Review Regularly

    Reinforce key concepts with frequent reviews and quizzes.

  10. Provide Real-World Examples

    Show how particle behavior affects real-world phenomena, such as weather patterns and chemical reactions.

What Particle Carries Gravity?

The graviton is a hypothetical particle believed to carry the force of gravity in quantum theories, though it has not been experimentally observed.

What Are the 3 General Types of Particles That Exist?

The three general types of particles are subatomic particles (protons, neutrons, electrons), atoms, and molecules.

What’s Smaller Than a Quark?

Currently, there is no confirmed particle smaller than a quark. Quarks are considered fundamental particles in the Standard Model of particle physics.

Do Humans Have Quantum Particles?

Yes, humans are made of atoms, which contain subatomic particles like electrons and protons, all governed by quantum mechanics.

Which Particles Are Quantum?

Quantum particles include electrons, protons, neutrons, photons, quarks, and gluons, all following the principles of quantum mechanics.

Is Light a Wave or a Particle?

Light exhibits both wave-like and particle-like properties, a concept known as wave-particle duality, where photons represent its particle aspect.

Why Are Particles Important?

Understanding particles is essential for studying and explaining the properties and behaviors of all matter in the universe.

What Are Photons?

Photons are particles of light that exhibit both wave-like and particle-like properties.

How Do Particles Interact?

Particles interact through fundamental forces: gravitational, electromagnetic, strong nuclear, and weak nuclear forces.

What Is the Role of Quarks?

Quarks are fundamental particles that combine to form protons and neutrons within an atomic nucleus.

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