Elements and Molecules-A substance that cannot be split chemically into
a simpler substance. For example, if we were take a bar of gold and continually
divide it in half, we would eventually have a very small piece of gold. If we
were to try to break this piece of gold into anything smaller it would no longer
be gold. This very small single unit of gold is called a gold
atom or "an atom of gold". This atom still retains the metallic qualities
of the bar of gold. Of course, in special laboratories, we can break down
a gold atom. Howver, this destroys the gold atom (or rather converts the
atom to other forms of energy).
There are many other types of atoms, such as silver, platimun,
lead, aluminum, oxygen, etc. Each particular type of atom is referred to as
an element. Therefore, pure gold
is an element (atoms of only gold). Pure silver is known as the 'element' silver
because it only contains silver atoms.
Of course, we can mix elements if we want to. The element chlorine can be
combined with the element sodium, to make sodium chloride, or common table salt.
Since sodium chloride is made up to two different atoms, it is referred to as
a molecule of sodium chloride or salt. A molecule is a combination of two or more
Atoms are very small: too small to be seen even by the most powerful light
microscopes. To be able to investigate atoms, we need a special apparatus
called an electron microscope. For example, a billion atoms of some elements can fit neatly
onto the tip of a pin. Just think, everytime you take a breath, you are breathing in
billions of the same oxygen atoms that your favourite pop star once inhaled: and
even your worst enemy. Just imagine, each time you smell your partners bad breath in the
morning, you are inhaling many different atoms, and molecules which are
digestive products of bacterial metabolism. For more and games of chemistry,
visit our carbohydrates section.