Atoms and Atomic Structure

# How can you find the number of protons and electrons and neutrons in an atom or ion?

136137138 ###### 2016-02-04 19:50:18

Number of protons = Atomic number

Number of electrons = Atomic number minus the charge (if it is ion)

Number of neutrons = Mass number minus Atomic number

• Number of Protons:

Look at the periodic table. Each element is assigned a number called the atomic number -- it is usually written in large on the periodic table. That number tells you the number of protons in the nucleus of each element. The atomic number is always the same as the number of protons. The number of protons in the nucleus uniquely identifies an element.

• Number of Electrons:

The number of electrons in an element can change. For a neutral atom (net charge of zero), the number of protons is exactly equal to the number of electrons. So the number of electrons is also the same as the atomic number.

However, it is possible to remove electrons and not change the identity of an element. These are called ions. The charge on the ion tells you the number of electrons -- the number of electrons is the atomic number minus the charge on the ion if it's an ion. If the charge is positive, subtract that number from the atomic number to get the number of electrons (with a positively charged ion, you will then have less electrons than protons).

If the charge is negative, subtract the charge (but note you are subtracting a negative number, which is the same as adding the magnitude of the charge to the atomic number (with a negatively charged ion, you with then have more electrons than protons).

• Number of Neutrons:

The number of neutrons in an element can also vary, and if two atoms of the same element have different numbers of neutrons, then they are called isotopes. To figure out how many neutrons are in the nucleus, you must know the mass number. Note that you cannot determine the number of neutrons for an element, only for one isotope of that element -- so you have to know which isotope you are being asked about.

Usually, a specific isotope is written like this: silicon-30 or carbon-12 or aluminum-26. It can also be written like this though, when using the symbol for the element instead of its full name: 30Si or 12C or 26Al. The number is called the mass number, and the mass number is equal to the sum of the number of protons plus the number of neutrons.

So if you know the mass number and you know the atomic number (if you know the name of the element, that tells you the atomic number because each element has only one atomic number), to find the number of neutrons, subtract the mass number from the atomic number.

Here are some examples:

• The element hydrogen (H) has atomic number of 1, so it has one proton in the nucleus, and one electron. The hydrogen ion (H+) has zero electrons, and the hydrogen ion (H-) has 2 electrons. Most hydrogen atoms don't have any neutrons (these are written 1H), but there exists an isotope called deuterium (also 2H) which has one neutron, and another isotope called tritium (also 3H) which has 2 neutrons.
• The element fluorine (F) has atomic number 9, so it has nine protons. The neutral atom also has 9 electrons, but F is commonly found as a negative ion F-, which has 10 electrons. The most common isotope of fluorine has 10 neutrons, and so it has a mass number of 19, and is written Fluorine-19 or 19F. There also exists another isotope, fluorine-18 or 18F, which only has 9 neutrons, but this isotope is not stable.
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## Related Questions The mass number of an atom is the number of protons plus the number of neutrons. This is is the same as the number of electrons plus the number of neutrons since the number of protons is the same as the number of electrons in an atom. Atomic number is the number of protons in an atom. In a neutral atom the numbers of protons and electrons are equal. So if you know the atomic number of a neutral atom, you will also know the numbers of protons and electrons. Mass number is the sum of protons and neutrons in a particular isotope of an atom. Since atomic number is the number of protons in an atom, subtract the atomic number (or number of protons) from the mass number to get the number of neutrons. Mass no. - atomic no. = no. of neutrons or mass no. - no. of protons = no. of neutrons. There are 16 protons, 16 neutrons and 16 electrons in a Sulfur atom. *note it's atomic number- this is the number of protons in an atom of an element. There must be the same number of electrons to balance the charge. The atomic weight minus the number of protons gives you the number of neutrons If its a neutral atom, there will be the same number of protons as electrons. The atomic number will tell you how many protons there are, so there are 50 protons and 50 electrons.The mass number is the sum of the number of protons (or electrons in a neutral atom) and the number of neutrons. Since we know there are 50 protons, we subtract 125 with 50 to get 75 neutrons. There is really no relationship between the number of neutrons and electrons in an atom. In a neutral atom, there is a relationship between the number of electrons and protons in that they are equal. If an atom is neutrally charged, it has the same number of protons and electrons. (The number of protons determines which element it is, and the number of neutrons determines which isotope of the element it is.) An atom has the same number of protons and electrons, although the number of neutrons may vary, but what that number is depends on what element it is an atom of, as the element is defined by the number of protons, and therefore the number of electrons. Neutrons do not affect the neutrality (or charge) of an atom; protons and electrons do. In order to be neutral, the number of protons must be the same as the number of electrons.

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