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Author Topic: What are the forces that can break atoms apart from each other?  (Read 2896 times)

Offline james oliver

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Hi Guy's (and by guy's I mean guys and dolls:)
 I am trying to figure out what things (forces, anti-forces?) can break, or undue the electromagnetic forces that bring  atoms together to make molecules. Is there only one type of force (magnetic?) - if so what can undo that force as well. These bonds of atoms, whether they be covalent or ionic or any other kind, can they be broken, undone etc and how so? Thank you all for helping out.
                                                                                                                                                           Oliver
« Last Edit: 29/06/2012 16:18:44 by james oliver »


 

Offline evan_au

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As you say, there are several kinds of bonds in molecules and crystals - covalent, ionic and metallic.

When these bonds form, they release energy.
All of these bonds can be broken by supplying sufficient energy, eg in the form of heat, strong chemicals like acids or alkalis, a spark or an electric current (which works better on ionic bonds).

Unless you maintain the material as a plasma at a very high temperate (like a spark, or the surface of the Sun), the bonds will quickly reform into new molecules, as electrons "prefer" to hang around in pairs, and atoms "prefer" to have a full shell of electrons around them. For most elements, this means hanging around in molecules or crystals (the main exception is the noble gases: Helium, Neon, etc).

Even if you can't supply enough energy to separate every atom from every other atom:
  • it takes a relatively small amount of energy to separate molecules from each other (eg heat makes water boil or sugar melt)
  • Depending on the molecule, a small amount of energy may be enough to break some of the bonds, causing it to form other molecules (eg heat makes meat cook)
 

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