Implications of Periodicity for Atomic Theory

Submitted by ChemPRIME Staff on Wed, 12/08/2010 - 23:55

The concept of valence implies that atomsThe smallest particle of an element that can be involved in chemical combination with another element; an atom consists of protons and neutrons in a tiny, very dense nucleus, surrounded by electrons, which occupy most of its volume. of each elementA substance containing only one kind of atom and that therefore cannot be broken down into component substances by chemical means. have a characteristic number of sites by which they can be connected to atoms of other elements. The number of valence sites repeats periodically as atomic weightThe average mass of the naturally occurring isotopes of an element, taking into account the different natural abundances of the isotopes. Expressed relative to the value of exactly 12 for carbon-12; also called atomic mass. increases, and occasionally even this regular repetition is imperfect. Atoms of similar atomic weight often have quite different properties, while some which differ widely in relative massA measure of the force required to impart unit acceleration to an object; mass is proportional to chemical amount, which represents the quantity of matter in an object. behave almost the same. Dalton’s atomic theory considers atoms to be indestructible spheres whose most important property is mass. This is clearly inadequate to account for the macroscopic observations of the elements. In order to continue using the atomic theory, we must attribute some underlying structure to atoms. If both valence and atomic weight are determined by that structure, we should be able to account for the close but imperfect relationship between these two properties. The next section will describe some of the experiments which led to current theories about just what this atomic structure is like.