Electric charge of an atom

Physics > Electric charging in the atom

The structure of the atom and what is electric charge of an atom… Study protons, neutrons, electrons, cations, anions, ions, the elementary electric charge of an atom.

Atoms contain negatively charged electrons and positively charged protons. The number of each determines the net charge of the atom.

Learning challenge

  • Identify the factors that characterize the total charge of an atom.

Key points

  • A proton is a particle with a positive charge located in the nucleus of an atom.
  • An electron is endowed with the masses of a proton.
  • Elementary charge reaches 1.6 x 10-nineteen Pendants.
  • Electrons are able to move from atom to atom. If an atom has an equal number of protons and electrons, then the net charge is equal to zero. If it receives an additional electron, it turns into a negatively charged one (anion). If it loses an electron, then it is positively charged (cation).


  • The nucleus is the massive, positively charged central part of an atom, represented by protons and electrons.

Atomic electric charges

Atoms are the fundamental building blocks of all molecules. Consist of protons, neutrons and electrons. Of these, only neutrons are devoid of pure charge (neutral).

Protons and electrons are charged by quantization. That is, their value is equal to 1. The standard value is 1.6 x 10-nineteen Pendants.


Protons are located in the central part of the atom. Together with neutrons, they make up the nucleus. Have a charge of +1 and a mass of 1 atomic unit – 1.66 x 10-24 grams. The number of protons is determined by the identity of the element, therefore they are considered relatively stable, and the number changes only during radioactive decay.


The electrons are located at the periphery of the atom, and the charge is: 1/1836. They are slightly inferior in size to protons, and their mass is. In the models, protons and neutrons are perceived as fixed elements, and electrons move outside the nucleus. A negatively charged electron cloud indicates areas where electrons can be found. It is also important that electrons are labile (they can be transported from one atom to another). Atoms are charged by electron transfer.


In the normal state, an atom has an equal number of protons and electrons, and the net charge = 0. But electrons are able to travel, so atoms in a similar state are charged and called ions.

If an electron gets to a neutral atom, then it acquires a negative charge – an anion. If it loses an electron, it becomes positive – a cation.

A steady stream of electrons is called current. It is the current that flows through electrical wires and electronic parts. Below is the structure of the atom and the movement of charges.

Tiny electrons flow around a large and relatively fixed nucleus of protons and neutrons

Physics Section

  • Electric charging in the atom
  • Properties of electric charges
  • Charge separation
  • Polarization
  • Static electricity, charge and charge conservation
  • Conductors and insulators
  • Millikan’s experience
Shielding and charging by induction
  • Electrostatic shielding
  • Induced charge
Coulomb’s law
  • Superposition of forces
  • Spherical charge distribution
  • Solving problems with vectors and Coulomb’s law
Repeated electric field
  • Electric field from a point charge
  • Superposition of fields
  • Electric field lines
  • Parallel plate condenser
  • Electric fields and conductors
  • Conductors and fields in static equilibrium
Electric flow and Gauss’s law
  • Electric flow
  • Gauss’s law
Application of electrostatics
  • Biology: DNA structure and replication
  • Photocopiers and printers
  • Van de Graaff generators

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