How are atoms and molecules related?

Atoms and molecules
You can now listen to our post!
Fruity atoms and molecules – organic chemistry for kids

Introduction

Hello to everyone. Do you know what atoms and molecules definition is? Are atoms and molecules the same? We are going to answer this questions. This time we have introduced an activity which stimulates kids imagination and is a great start into the world of organic chemistry for kids. In this article we will:

  • describe how are atoms and molecules related
  • write about abundance of the chemical elements in the Universe
  • introduce the periodic table list of elements
  • ignite your child imagination with a colorful activity

Are atoms and molecules the same?

To make it straight forward, the answer is “no”. Atoms and molecules are not the same thing. Following Oxford Dictionary:

  • molecules are a group of atoms bonded together, representing the smallest fundamental unit of a chemical compound that can take part in a chemical reaction.
  • atom is the smallest particle of a chemical element that can exist, the word comes from Greek atomos ‘indivisible’.

Let us explain this with two examples.

  • First example. We have an atom of oxygen [O symbol] which can create two molecules: normal oxygen made of two atoms of oxygen [ O2 ] or so called ozone which is a molecule made of three atoms of oxygen [ O3 ]. They have different chemical properties. Oxygen [ O2 ] is relatively safe for life, where ozone [ O3 ] is a colorless unstable toxic gas with a pungent odor and powerful oxidizing properties.
  • Second example. Water. The most famous molecule in the world – H2O. It combines three atoms – two atoms of hydrogen and one atom of oxygen

Atoms and molecules size difference

Molecules can be built with a different number of atoms. The simplest ones contains two atoms, the most complicated molecules are called polymers. They are possible, because carbon atoms are able to form very stable bonds with other carbon atoms. Very well known and one of the largest naturally occurring molecule is DNA (Deoxyribonucleic acid). It is a macro-molecule and can reach macroscopic sizes, so it can be observed with bare eye. To get the scale just check the following fact. The first and largest chromosome in our DNA, which is 247 million base pairs or roughly 15 billion atoms split over the two molecules in the double helix

Abundance of the chemical elements in the Universe

Have you ever wondered what chemical elements occur the most in the Universe and what the abundance is? The abundance of the chemical elements is a measure of the occurrence of the chemical elements relative to all other elements in a given environment. It can be measured in three ways: by mass fraction, by mole fraction and by volume fraction.

Firstly, taking mass fraction of oxygen in water molecule we get 89%, because that is the fraction of water’s mass which is oxygen. While considering mole fraction we get 33,3% because there is only one atom of oxygen out of three atoms in a water molecule; do you remember previous paragraph in our article, where we give an example of H2O? The last way to measure is by volume fraction. This method is used to measure abundance in mixed gasses. In value, it is very similar to mole fraction.

Coming back to our dilemma – what chemical elements occur the most in the Universe? Taking mass fraction the most common is hydrogen, then we have helium, oxygen and carbon. Below we present a table of top 10 chemical elements occurring in our galaxy – Milky Way.

Atomic numberElementMass friction
1Hydrogen739000
2Helium240000
8Oxygen10400
6Carbon4600
10Neon1340
26Iron1090
7Nitrogen960
14Silicon650
12Magnesium580
16Sulfur440

The interesting fact is that the fraction proportions between the elements we observe in the Milky Way are almost the same we observe in living structures – for instance in our body. So we can say that the Universe is inside us and we are a part of the Universe – isn’t this a beautiful connection?

Periodic table list of elements

What is periodic table?

In the beginning, before we jump into our activity we would like to dig a little bit deeper into one of the most useful tools in chemistry – period table. It is called also Mendeleev Periodic Table, named after noble Russian chemist – Dmitri Mendeleev. He formulated the Periodic Law, created a farsighted version of the periodic table of elements, and used it to correct the properties of some already discovered elements and also to predict the properties of eight elements yet to be discovered.

The simplest way to describe the table is to show it and explain the basics.

Periodic table of elements where groups and periods are marked.

The periodic table is a tabular display of the chemical elements, which are arranged by atomic number (from 1 to 118 on our image), electron configuration, and recurring chemical properties. The structure of the table shows periodic trends. The seven rows of the table, called periods, generally have metals on the left and non-metals on the right. The columns, called groups, contain elements with similar chemical behaviors. There are commonly known 8 groups:

  • 1: alkali metals ( Lithium, Sodium, Potassium, Rubidium, Cesium and Francium )
  • 2: alkaline earth metals
  • 3 – 12: Transition metals
  • 13 – 17: Metalloids ( Boron, Silicon, Germanium, Arsenic, Antimony, Tellurium and Polonium )
  • 13 – 15: Other metals ( Aluminium, Gallium, Indium, Tin, Thallium, Lead and Bismuth )
  • 1, 14, 15, 16: Non-metals ( Hydrogen, Carbon, Nitrogen, Oxygen, Phosphorus, Sulfur and Selenium )
  • 17: halogens ( Fluorine, Chlorine, Bromine, Iodine and Astatine )| Group 18: noble gases ( Helium, Neon, Argon, Krypton, Xenon and Radon ) Also displayed are four simple rectangular areas or blocks associated with the filling of different atomic orbitals.

How to read periodic table – example

If you would like to know how heavy and how many electrons and orbits oxygen has, you need to find O symbol and read the periodic table as follows:

  • firstly, atomic number (Z) = 8, it means the number of protons found in the nucleus of every atom of that element is 8,
  • secondly, oxygen belongs to period 2, so it means it has 2 electron shells,
  • thirdly, it belongs to group 16 (called chalcogens)
  • last but not least, it belongs to reactive non-metals (represented by the light green color on the table)

There is a lot of variations of periodic tables which contain much more information dependently on the purpose of it. In our article we just present the basics.

Organic chemistry

Organic chemistry is a sub-discipline of chemistry that studies the structure, properties and reactions of organic compounds, which contain carbon in covalent bonding. Nevertheless, not all compounds that contain carbon are organic – example: carbon dioxide [CO2 ].

Organic compounds form the basis of all earthly life and constitute the majority of known chemicals. The bonding patterns of carbon, with its valence of four—formal single, double, and triple bonds, plus structures with delocalized electrons—make the array of organic compounds structurally diverse, and their range of applications enormous.

They form the basis of, or are constituents of, many commercial products including pharmaceuticals; petrochemicals and agrichemicals, and products made from them including lubricants, solvents; plastics; fuels and explosives. The study of organic chemistry overlaps organometallic chemistry and biochemistry, but also with medicinal chemistry, polymer chemistry, and materials science

Our activity

Preparations and aim

In our activity we would like to introduce three organic compounds:

  • methanol [ CH3OH ]
  • methanediol [ CH2(OH)2 ]
  • dimethylamine [ (CH3)2NH ]

We decided to explain their structures using fruits and toothsticks. The idea has been accepted on the spot by Atena and she could not wait to perform this. We used the following fruits (of course you can use different ones):

  • Huckleberries for Hydrogen
  • Physalis for Nitrogen
  • Red grapes as Carbon
  • White grapes for Oxygen

As Atena is quite familiar with reading, we suggested her to take a book where the shapes have been presented and let her figure it out. She made it perfectly.

Step 1 – Prepare the fruits as atoms

Firstly, you need to choose fruits you like and assign them to the particular atoms. We suggest to use the ball-shaped ones as it represents atoms more accurately. Assign one kind of fruit to only one atom name. Please use some letters so your kid is not confused what is what.

Step 2 – Prepare tooth-sticks

Secondly, it is pretty straight forward step, but if your kid is smaller you might break the longer tooth-sticks into shorter parts.

Step 3 – Get the template and follow it

Thirdly, once we have all the atoms, tooth-sticks and pictures ready, beginnig the play. It might be needed to perform one example together with your kid and it follows the rule. Or maybe not 🙂 Nevertheless, it has to be a great and joyful activity so support your kid if needed. After all you can eat the molecules 🙂 🙂

Step 4 – Activity extension

Encourage your kid to count the fruits in each molecule and say out-loud the number and names of the atoms building the molecules. Example below:

  • “To build methanol I used one red grape, one light grape, and four huckleberries, so it means that methanol compound consists of 1 carbon atom, 1 oxygen atom and 4 hydrogen atoms”.

Great TIP: Look together with your child into the periodic table and read the basic information about a number of protons in the nucleus and number of electron shells of each atom in the compound.

This way we have finished our activity and short story about atoms and molecules. If you ignited the spark in your child’s mind, then let him/her discover more. Support him or her!

Questions and answers

Taking the opportunity, we have gathered the most popular questions and answers related to the atoms and molecules. We hope it will be your one-stop-shop in this topic.

What are periodic table group numbers?

All elements are arranged in the periodic table of elements into 18 columns called groups. The elements in each group have the same number of valence electrons, hence similar properties.
All groups can be classified into one of eight groups:
There are 8 “named” groups:
Group 1: alkali metals ( Lithium, Sodium, Potassium, Rubidium, Cesium and Francium ) | Group 2: alkaline earth metals | Group 3 – 12: Transition metals | Group 13 – 17: Metalloids ( Boron, Silicon, Germanium, Arsenic, Antimony, Tellurium and Polonium ) | Group 13 – 15: Other metals ( Aluminium, Gallium, Indium, Tin, Thallium, Lead and Bismuth ) | Group 1, 14, 15, 16: Non-metals ( Hydrogen, Carbon, Nitrogen, Oxygen, Phosphorus, Sulfur and Selenium ) | Group 17: halogens ( Fluorine, Chlorine, Bromine, Iodine and Astatine )| Group 18: noble gases ( Helium, Neon, Argon, Krypton, Xenon and Radon )

What are periodic table rows and columns?

Rows represent so called “periods” and inform about number of electron shells, columns represent groups – the elements in each group have the same number of valence electrons, hence similar properties.

What represents periodic table Group 7?

Group 7 represents following atoms: manganese (Mn), technetium (Tc), rhenium (Re), and bohrium (Bh). All belong to so called transition metals. Please DO NOT mix Group 7 of the periodic table with so called “mega” group 7 often represented by Halogens. These are two different classifications!

What represents periodic table Group 1?

Group 1 represents following alkali metals atoms: lithium (Li), sodium (Na), potassium (K), rubidium (Rb), cesium (Cs), francium (Fr), hydrogen (H)

What represents periodic table Group 1-8?

Answer depends on the definition.
If we stick literally to the 18 groups represented in the periodic table by the columns then the answer is that these groups represent alkali metals (Group 1), alkaline earth metals (Group 2), transition metals (Group 3 – 12).
If we take commonly understood definition then there are 8 “large” groups:
Group 1: alkali metals ( Lithium, Sodium, Potassium, Rubidium, Cesium and Francium ) | Group 2: alkaline earth metals | Group 3 – 12: Transition metals | Group 13 – 17: Metalloids ( Boron, Silicon, Germanium, Arsenic, Antimony, Tellurium and Polonium ) | Group 13 – 15: Other metals ( Aluminium, Gallium, Indium, Tin, Thallium, Lead and Bismuth ) | Group 1, 14, 15, 16: Non-metals ( Hydrogen, Carbon, Nitrogen, Oxygen, Phosphorus, Sulfur and Selenium ) | Group 17: halogens ( Fluorine, Chlorine, Bromine, Iodine and Astatine )| Group 18: noble gases ( Helium, Neon, Argon, Krypton, Xenon and Radon )

What are periodic table first 20 elements?

Taking atomic number as a classifier then, first 20 elements are:
1.H —Hydrogen
2.He—Helium
3.Li—Lithium
4.Be—Beryllium
5.B—Boron
6.C—Carbon
7.N—Nitrogen
8.O—Oxygen
9.F—Fluorine
10.Ne—Neon
11.Na—Sodium
12.Mg—Magnesium
13.Al—Aluminum
14.Si—Silicon
15.P—Phosphorus
16.S—Sulfur
17.Cl—Chlorine
18.Ar—Argon
19.K—Potassium
20.Ca—Calcium

What are periodic table noble gases?

The noble gases make up an 8th group of chemical elements with similar properties; under standard conditions, they are all odorless, colorless, mono-atomic gases with very low chemical reactivity. The six naturally occurring noble gases are helium (He), neon (Ne), argon (Ar), krypton (Kr), xenon (Xe), and the radioactive radon (Rn). Oganesson (Og) is variously predicted to be a noble gas as well or to break the trend due to relativistic effects; its chemistry has not yet been investigated.

What are periodic table group names?

All elements are arranged in the periodic table of elements into 18 columns called groups. The elements in each group have the same number of valence electrons, hence similar properties.
All groups can be classified into one of eight groups:
There are 8 “named” groups:
Group 1: alkali metals ( Lithium, Sodium, Potassium, Rubidium, Cesium and Francium ) | Group 2: alkaline earth metals | Group 3 – 12: Transition metals | Group 13 – 17: Metalloids ( Boron, Silicon, Germanium, Arsenic, Antimony, Tellurium and Polonium ) | Group 13 – 15: Other metals ( Aluminium, Gallium, Indium, Tin, Thallium, Lead and Bismuth ) | Group 1, 14, 15, 16: Non-metals ( Hydrogen, Carbon, Nitrogen, Oxygen, Phosphorus, Sulfur and Selenium ) | Group 17: halogens ( Fluorine, Chlorine, Bromine, Iodine and Astatine )| Group 18: noble gases ( Helium, Neon, Argon, Krypton, Xenon and Radon )

Summary

We are curious about what are your opinions about the activity and the article. Please leave a comment.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: