• Astrophysics • Electricity • Electromagnetism • Energy • Fields • Force • Mechanics • Momentum • Nuclear Physics • Quantities & Units  • States of Matter • Waves • Key Experiments Atoms are made up of tiny particles that have both an electrical charge and mass. Despite their small size, these two properties are crucial to understanding atoms. The specific charge of an atom refers to the ratio of its mass to its charge. This measurement helps scientists better understand the behavior of atoms and their interactions with other particles. So, the specific charge is a vital concept in the world of atomic science.

## Atoms and their charge

Atoms are neutral; they have no charge because their particles are balanced. However, if you remove or add one of their negative charges (electrons), you have a non-balanced atom. An atom or particle with a charge other than zero is called an ion. Ions can be positive (cation) or negative (anion).

Cation: a positively charged ion, which has an excess of positive particles. Anion: a negatively charged ion, which has an excess of negative particles. Figure 1. From left to right: a hydrogen anion, a neutral hydrogen atom, and a Hydrogen cation

### The specific charge of electrons and protons

In addition to atoms, elemental particles can also have a specific charge. The specific charge of a particle is determined by its mass and charge, which also impact the specific charge of the overall atom. Electrons have a larger specific charge than protons since they are lighter. Neutrons, on the other hand, have a neutral charge, so their specific charge is zero.

To calculate the specific charge of a particle, we need to know its mass and electrical charge. By dividing a particle’s electrical charge by its mass, we can determine its specific charge. This calculation is done using nuclide notation, which specifies the number of particles that make up the nucleus's mass and the total number of protons in an element’s atom. Overall, understanding the specific charge of particles is vital in atomic science, allowing scientists to better comprehend the behavior and interactions of atoms.

The nuclide notation is a way to represent an element's symbol (in Latin letters) and part of its structure using the mass number and atomic number.

In the upper left corner, the mass number shows the total number of protons and neutrons that make up the element's mass. In the lower left corner, the atomic number indicates the number of protons in the atom.

For example, the symbol "C-12" represents a Carbon atom with twelve particles in its nucleus, with six of them being positively charged protons. Similarly, "O-16" represents an Oxygen atom with sixteen particles in its nucleus, eight of which are positively charged protons.

These notations are crucial in understanding the atomic structure of elements, allowing scientists to determine the number of protons, neutrons, and electrons in an atom and how they interact with other particles.

### Obtaining the electrical charge

To determine the electrical charge of a particle, we need to multiply the number of charged particles by the charge value. For example, to calculate the total charge of a helium nucleus, we multiply the charge of one proton (1.6022 x 10^-19 coulombs) by the total number of protons in the nucleus (which is two).

Similarly, to calculate the total charge of a negatively charged carbon anion with eight electrons, we need to multiply the electron charge value (-1.6022 x 10^-19 coulombs) by the number of extra electrons (which is two). The total charge would be -3.2044lombs.

Interestingly, the magnitude of the charge of an electron and a proton is the same, with the only difference being the sign. Electrons have a negative charge, while protons have a positive charge.

If we need to determine the number of protons in an atom's nucleus without having the nuclide notation, we can consult the periodic table of elements. The atomic number listed on the table tells us the number of protons in the nucleus of that particular element's atom.

### Obtaining the mass

To calculate the total particle mass of an atom, we need to multiply the mass value of protons and neutrons by the number of protons and neutrons present in the atom. The mass of an electron is negligible compared to the mass of a proton or neutron, so we don't need to include it in our calculations.

The mass of a proton or neutron is approximately 1.67 x 10^-27 kg. Therefore, to calculate the total particle mass of an atom, we need to multiply the number of protons by the mass value of a proton and the number of neutrons by the mass value of a neutron.

It is important to note that while the mass value of protons and neutrons is approximately the same, neutrons are slightly heavier than protons due to the presence of additional neutral particles in their nucleus.

By calculating the total particle mass of an atom, we can gain a better understanding of its physical properties, including its density and weight. This information is crucial in many fields, including chemistry, physics, and engineering.

### Obtaining the specific charge

To calculate the specific charge of a nucleus of Carbon 12, we need to first multiply the charge of one proton (1.6022 x 10^-19 coulombs) by the total number of protons in the nucleus, which in this case is six.

Next, we need to multiply the mass of the particles that make up the nucleus (protons and neutrons) by the total number of particles, which in this case is twelve. The mass of a proton or neutron is approximately 1.67 x 10^-27 kg.

Finally, we need to divide the electrical charge by the mass to obtain the specific charge. This calculation gives us an understanding of the ratio of an atom's electrical charge to its mass.

It is important to note that both electrons and protons have the same magnitude of electrical charge, but the sign of the charge is opposite. Electrons have a negative charge, while protons have a positive charge. Additionally, the mass of electrons is much smaller than that of protons and neutrons.

Furthermore, particles can be classified as cations (positively charged) or anions (negatively charged). Neutrons do not contribute to the electrical charge of an atom; they only contribute to its mass.

Understanding the specific charge of an atom is crucial in many fields, including physics and engineering, as it helps us to predict and understand the behavior of particles in various environments.

## Specific Charge

How do you calculate specific charge?

You need to divide the charged particles by the mass of the atom’s particles.

What is the specific charge of an electron?

The specific charge of an electron is -1.758 ⋅ 10 ^ 11  C / kg.

What is specific charge?

Specific charge is the ratio of an atom’s electrical charge to its mass. 14-day free trial. Cancel anytime.    Join 10,000+ learners worldwide. The first 14 days are on us 96% of learners report x2 faster learning Free hands-on onboarding & support Cancel Anytime