atoms, ions, and molecules
An atom is an extremely small particle of matter that retains its identity during chemical reactions. During the latter nineteenth century a series of experiments showed that atoms are comprised of smaller particles. An atom consists of a nucleus and one or more electrons surrounding the nucleus. The nucleus, the core of the atom, has the majority of the mass of the atom, and a positive charge. An electron is a very light particle which circles the nucleus. It has a negative charge. In an electrically neutral atom, the number of electrons equals the positive charge on the nucleus. The nucleus of the atom is composed of two smaller particles called neutrons and protons. A proton has a positive charge equal in magnitude to the negative charge of an electron. This means that in an electrically neutral atom (one with an equal number of protons and electrons), the postive charge of the protons, combined with the negative charge of the electrons, would result in no charge because they would cancel each other out. A proton's mass, however, is a whopping 1836 times that of the electron. A neutron has a mass almost identical to a proton's, but it has no electrical charge associated with it.
A molecule is a definite group of atoms that are chemically bonded together. They are tightly connected by attractive forces. A molecular formula is a chemical formula that gives the exact number of different types of atoms in a molecule. Some simple molecular substances are carbon dioxide, CO2; ammonia, NH3; and water, H2O. The atoms that are in a molecule are not just stuffed together without any order. The atoms are chemically bonded to one another in order to form a definite arrangement. A structural formula is a chemical formula which shows how the atoms are bonded to one another to form a molecule. A good example is the structural formula for water, H-O-H. Those two horizontal lines connecting the H with the O (hydrogen and oxygen) represent the chemical bonds joining the atoms.
An ion is an electrically charged particle obtained from an atom or chemically bonded group of atoms by adding or removing electrons. Now what this means is that an ion is the result of taking away, or adding, electrons to an atom or a chemically bonded group of atoms. By taking away, or adding, these electrons, the particle takes on an electrical charge. Atoms are electrically neutral as they contain an equal number of positive and negative charges. An atom that adds an extra electron to it becomes a negatively charged ion. This type of ion is called an anion. An atom which loses one or more of its electrons now has a positive charge, and is called a cation. For example, a sodium atom can lose one of its electrons and form a sodium cation. Now, instead of being Na, it would be Na+1. This means that the sodium atom has an overall positive charge of +1. Another example would be a neutral atom of Sulfur, S. If this atom of S were to gain two electrons it would become S-2. The sulfur atom would now have a total negative charge of -2.It has 16 protons and 18 electrons.