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Protons

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Protons

Protons are particles found in the area known as the atoms nucleus, which concentrates almost all the atom’s mass. Being found in the atoms centre or nucleus, protons and neutrons are also known as nucleons. A proton has a positive charge and is one of two types of particles that possess a greater amount of mass in an atom than electrons. The following table lists some of a protons characteristics:

ParticleMass in kilogramsElectrical charge in coulombsLocation
protonNucleus

Protons atom model showing nucleus StudySmarterFigure 1. Protons are found in the atoms nucleus, which concentrates almost all the mass of its elements. Source: Manuel R. Camacho, StudySmarter.

Proton number

To determine the number of protons in an atom defined by the letter Z, you need to read its nuclide notation. This specifies the number of protons in the lower-left corner of the element symbol.

This is a carbon atom. The number of protons in the nucleus is 6.

This is an oxygen atom. The number of protons in the nucleus is 8.

The proton number does not change between isotopes.

Protons and the atoms mass

Protons are one of two types of particles responsible for most of an atoms mass. The more protons an atom has, the heavier it is. Protons have a mass that is almost 1836.15 times larger than that of electrons and nearly equal to that of neutrons (there is a difference of approximately 0.1%).

Protons and the atoms charge

Protons are responsible for the positive charge of an atom. An atoms electrical charge is negative if the number of electrons is larger than the number of protons. Conversely, it is positive if the number of protons exceeds that of the number of electrons.

Examples of how protons and electrons determine an atoms electrical charge are given below:

An oxygen cation lacking two electrons

In this case, the oxygen is not neutral but has an excess of two protons. The total charge is 1.6022⋅10 ^ -19 coulombs multiplied by two.

An iron cation lacking one electron

In this case, the iron is not neutral but has an excess of one proton, so the total charge is 1.6022⋅10 ^ -19 coulombs.

Protons and the atoms relative charge

When thinking about atomic charges, it helps to work with the concept of relative charge. If the electron and the proton have an electrical charge that is equal, then to calculate the total charge, you only need to multiply the atoms relative charge by the charge of the proton.

See the following examples of applying relative charges:

A carbon cation with a relative charge of +1

In this case, the carbon is no longer neutral, as it has one extra proton. Its total charge is 1.6022⋅ 10 ^ -19 coulombs multiplied by one.

An alpha particle consisting of a helium nucleus without electrons and a relative charge of +2

In this case, the helium is no longer neutral but has an excess of two protons. Its total charge is 1.6022 ⋅ 10 ^ -19 coulombs multiplied by two.

Protons alpha particle and helium atom StudySmarterFigure 2. Left, the relative charge of a helium atom. Right, the nucleus of a helium atom, also known as an alpha particle. The relative charges vary, depending on the number of electrons. Source: Manuel R. Camacho, StudySmarter.

Protons - Key takeaways

  • Protons are one of two particles adding a greater amount of mass to an atom.
  • Protons are almost 1836.15 times heavier than electrons.
  • Protons and neutrons have similar masses.
  • The number of protons and the lack of electrons determine an atoms positive charge.
  • An atom with an excess of protons is called a cation.
  • An atom with an excess of electrons is called an anion.

Frequently Asked Questions about Protons

A proton is one of the particles that make up the nucleus of an atom; it has both a charge and mass.

Protons are made of quarks.

A proton has a positive charge of 1.6022x10 ^ -19 coulombs.

Protons were first observed by Eugen Goldstein and later identified by Ernest Rutherford.

Final Protons Quiz

Question

What is a proton?

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Answer

A proton is one of the particles that make up the nucleus of an atom; it has a charge and mass.

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Question

What is the mass of a proton?

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Answer

1.67 x 10^-27 kg.

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What is the charge of a proton?

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In which units is the charge of a proton measured?

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Answer

Coulombs.

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Where is the proton located?

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Answer

In the centre of the atom.

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Question

 In the nuclide notation, where can the proton number be found?

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Answer

In the lower left corner.

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Question

What is the proton number of Carbon 12?

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Answer

6.

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What is the proton number of Carbon 22?

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Answer

6.

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Does the proton number change between isotopes?

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Answer

No, it doesn’t.

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Do protons make up a large part of an atom’s mass?

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Answer

Yes, they do.

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Are the mass of a proton and that of a neutron almost equal?

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Answer

Yes, they are.

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How large is the mass of a proton compared to that of an electron?

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Answer

It is 1836.16 times larger.

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Is a cation defined by a lack of electrons?

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Answer

Yes, it is.

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Is an anion defined by an excess of protons?

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Answer

No, it isn’t.

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What is the relative charge of a proton?

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Answer

+1.

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What is the relative charge of an alpha particle?

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Answer

+2.

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What is another name for protons?

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Answer

Protons and neutrons are also jointly known as nucleons.

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What is the symbol for the proton number?

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Answer

Z.

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Question

Do we use an electron’s mass to calculate an atom’s mass?

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Answer

No, we don’t.

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Question

Why do we not take into account an electron’s mass when we calculate an atom’s mass?

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Answer

It is too small.

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