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atomic number

In chemistry and physics, the atomic number (also known as the proton number) is the number of protons found in the nucleus of an atom and therefore identical to the charge number of the nucleus. It is conventionally represented by the symbol Z. The atomic number uniquely identifies a chemical element. In an atom of neutral charge, the atomic number is also equal to the number of electrons.

The atomic number, Z, should not be confused with the mass number, A, which is the total number of protons and neutrons in the nucleus of an atom. The number of neutrons, N, is known as the neutron number of the atom; thus, A = Z + N. Since protons and neutrons have approximately the same mass (and the mass of the electron is negligible for many purposes), the atomic mass of an atom is roughly equal to A.

Atoms having the same atomic number Z but different neutron number N, and hence different atomic mass, are known as isotopes. Most naturally occurring elements exist as a mixture of isotopes, and the average atomic mass of this mixture determines the element's atomic weight. Wikipedia

See Also


atomic mass
atomic weight

Created by admin. Last Modification: Wednesday August 4, 2010 01:45:39 MDT by admin.