What Does The Atomic Number Represent?

In this article, we will be looking at what an atomic number represent. But before we do that, we need to know what an atomic number is in the first place. Right? So we will start from there.

What Is An Atomic Number?

To answer this, we first need to know what an atom is. But luckily, we have already answered it. So if you go through my earlier article on what an atom is, you will see that it is made up of 3 things. They are:

  • Protons
  • Neutrons &
  • Electrons

Right? So then what is an atomic number?

Well, atomic number is the total number of Protons present in an atom. So as we know, protons are positively charged particles that are present in the nucleus of an atom. So if we count these protons, we will get the atomic number of that atom. It is as simple as that!

Sounds good? Great! But then what does an atomic number represent? Let us answer this in our next section.

What Does An Atomic Number Represent?

So if an atomic number is the total number of protons in an atom, how is it useful for us? What does it represent?

What Does An Atomic Number Represent?
What Does An Atomic Number Represent?

Well the thing is, an atomic number gives an atom it’s identity!

You see, all the elements in our universe are made up of atoms. And all these atoms have the same 3 things we listed earlier – Protons, Neutrons and Electrons.

So if that is the case, you may be wondering – How doe these elements differ then? In other words, if an electron in an element like Carbon is same as an electron in Oxygen, how is Carbon different from Oxygen? Why do we have these as two separate elements?

Can you take a guess? I want you to take a couple of minutes to think about this, before you look for the answer that I am writing next.

If you answered that it is because of the number of protons in it, then you are right! It is indeed the number of protons present in an atom that decides what type of element it is going to be!

So as an example, an atom with 3 protons in it will become lithium element. On the other hand, an atom with 4 protons will become beryllium.

So as you can see, as the number of protons change, the element’s identity also changes. Right?

That is why we told you earlier that an atomic number of an atom represents it’s identity!

It all now makes sense. Right?


So there you have it! An atomic number represents the identity of an atom. That is all there is to it. But if you have any questions around it, do let me know in the comments below. Because I will be more than happy to help! Alright?

So with this, I will end this article. See you until next time guys! 🙂

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