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Subatomic particles

Atoms are not solid, like marbles. In fact, they are mostly empty space. But this space contains even smaller pieces of matter...Read More >>Atoms are not solid, like marbles. In fact, they are mostly empty space. But this space contains even smaller pieces of matter known as subatomic particles. There are three main kinds: protons, neutrons and electrons. The protons and neutrons are gathered together in the middle of the atom, forming its central part, or nucleus. The electrons are much smaller than protons and neutrons. Minuscule bundles of energy, they whizz around the nucleus at the speed of light. An atom is the smallest part of an element that can exist. But an atom is not the smallest thing there is. Inside it are even smaller, subatomic particles. Most of these cluster together in the tiny nucleus at the centre of the atom: protons and neutrons (the other subatomic particles are electrons). A very powerful force keeps these two kinds of particles together. It is called the strong nuclear force and operates at the tiny distances found within the nucleus. When atomic nuclei collide and join, or fuse, together, as happens inside the Sun, the strong nuclear force is released as massive amounts of energy. Energy can also be released when atomic nuclei are split apart (nuclear fission), as happens in nuclear power stations.



The proton (shown here in red) and neutron (black) particles at the centre of an atom contain quarks, represented by blue and...Read More >>The proton (shown here in red) and neutron (black) particles at the centre of an atom contain quarks, represented by blue and white balls, and gluons, represented by gold balls.

Quarks

Incredibly, protons and neutrons are themselves formed from still smaller particles, called quarks. Protons and neutrons both contain three quarks, but they contain a different balance of two kinds of quark, known as “up” or “down”. Neutrons contain one up quark and two down quarks, while protons contain two up quarks and one down quark. Protons can readily change into neutrons, and vice versa, by changing one of their quarks. The quarks are held together by other types of subatomic particles, called gluons.
 
 
When particles are made to collide with one another at high speed in giant instruments called particle accelerators, their paths...Read More >>When particles are made to collide with one another at high speed in giant instruments called particle accelerators, their paths are tracked on a detector. The lines represent the paths of particles produced by the collision (including the Higgs boson), while the energy the particles release is shown in blue.

Higgs boson

Protons are about 2000 times heavier than electrons.

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