How does adding one more particle to the nucleus of an atom give that atom new properties? I can see how it changes it's mass, that's obvious... But how does it give that new atom different properties like color?

anudoneddbv 2022-07-22 Answered
How does adding one more particle to the nucleus of an atom give that atom new properties? I can see how it changes it's mass, that's obvious... But how does it give that new atom different properties like color?
A good example would be: start with a copper atom (Cu), with the atomic number 29, thus Cu has 29 protons, and you add one proton to the nucleus you are left with an atom of Zinc (Zn) with the atomic number 30, thus 30 protons. The first element mentioned is a totally different color than the second, and conducts electricity better etc.
Not only protons, but neutrons, which are the same type of particle (Baryon) affect the properties of the element in a much different and much less important manner. Adding a neutron only creates an isotope of that element, not a different one all together, unlike adding a proton.
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Answers (2)

Quenchingof
Answered 2022-07-23 Author has 14 answers
You are not correct in your latter part of the analysis; the chemical properties (which is mostly what matters in ordinary matter) almost only depend on the electron shell, and in particular the outermost electrons (called the valence electrons).
So more protons mean more electrons and a different electron shell, meaning different chemical properties.
Why there is such a diversity of properties just by changing around the electron shell, is one of the wonders of chemistry! Due to quantum mechanics, the electrons don't simply spin around the nucleus like planets around the sun, but arrange themselves in particular, complicated patterns. By having different patterns, you can achieve a lot of different atom<->atom binding geometries, at a lot of different energies. This is what gives the diversity of chemical properties of matter (see the periodic table).
You can add or remove electrons to an atom to make the electron shells look more like the shells of another atom (with a different number of protons), but then the atom as a whole is then no longer electrically neutral, and due to the strength of the electromagnetic force, the resulting ion does not imitate the other atom type very well.
Many physical properties are also mostly due to the electron shells, like photon interactions including color. Mass obviously is almost only due to the nucleus though, and I should add that in many chemical processes the mass of the atoms are important for the dynamics of processes, even if it isn't directly related to the chemical bindings.
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Haley Madden
Answered 2022-07-24 Author has 7 answers
The two differences you describe between copper and zinc are in fact due to the electrons in the atoms. So the crucial difference between the two atoms is that they have different electron configurations in the electrically neutral state (when the number of electrons equals the number of protons).
The different colors are due to particular wavelengths of light that the electrons emit when they switch from an excited state back to their ground states. So different electron configurations lead to the different colors. Similarly, conductivity depends on having (almost) free electrons in the metal such that they can form an electron gas. If this is the case crucially depends on the electrons in the outermost orbits of the atom.
Ions of the same elements behave completely different. You just cannot have a stable lump of (say) copper ions with a color and a conductivity.
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