Why does altering proton number alter an element's properties?

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Offline rocking_1987

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What kind of properties any particle in an atom have? I have this question because I wonder why element react compltely different?

I mean if you look at the mercury and gold there is a difference of just electron, neutron and proton. Why only one number difference can make such huge chabge? What makes it possible?

For example mercury is in liquid state and gold is in solid state so what's makes it happen?
« Last Edit: 04/08/2012 11:01:47 by chris »


Offline evan_au

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The chemical interactions between atoms are mainly determined by the number of electrons in the outer shell of the atom, and how tightly the atom holds onto them. This determines how many bonds the atom will form, and whether they will be ionic or covalent bonds, and influences whether the substance will be solid, liquid or gas.

Gold and mercury lie beside each other in the periodic table: Gold has 1 outer electron, and mercury has 2. http://www.ptable.com/
Electronegativity is a measure of how tightly the atom holds onto the electrons - mercury has 2, and gold has 2.5.

Elements that are above/below each other in the periodic table have the same number of outer electrons, and tend to be fairly similar in properties, even though the number of electrons, protons and neutrons are radically different.

The Lanthanide elements (normally grouped below the main body of the periodic table) have the same number of outer electrons, but the extra electrons for each element are added to inner shells, so they have fairly similar properties.

The visible properties of an element depend on the interactions of the outermost electrons with light. Atoms have energy levels, and light can boost an electron into a higher energy level - absorbing light of certain colours, and it will cascade back down, emitting light of different colours.

The electrons make up only about 0.1% of the mass of the atom, so most of the mass comes from the protons and neutrons.