Atom vs Isotope: Difference and Comparison

Everything is made of something, from an apple to a human being. Isotope is a type of Atom which have a different number of neutrons.

They are the fundamental building blocks of chemistry and, in general, of everything. “Element”, in general, is a term that is used to describe a matter that cannot be broken down any further.

Key Takeaways

  1. An atom is the basic unit of matter and consists of a nucleus containing protons and neutrons, with electrons orbiting the nucleus. At the same time, an isotope is a variant of an element with the same number of protons but a different number of neutrons.
  2. Atoms are the building blocks of all matter, while isotopes can have different physical properties and atomic masses.
  3. Atoms are neutral, while isotopes may be stable or unstable and undergo radioactive decay.

Atom vs Isotope

Atoms with the same number of protons but different number of neutrons are called isotopes. The number of neutrons can change in an atom, but in the case of an isotope, they remain the same. Isotopes have bigger and larger masses compared to atoms since the number of neutrons is different.

Atom vs Isotope

Atoms are the smallest unit of any matter. Every matter starting from solid to liquid to gas, it’s made of something, and that is called Atom.

Isotopes are atoms with different atomic masses with the same atomic numbers. They are the same as Atoms with a different number of neutrons.

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Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonAtomIsotope
Another nameFragment, MoleculeVariant
Year of discovery450 BC1913
Discovered byDemocritus in 450 B.C and John Dalton in 1800Frederick Soddy
 Used forThey can be combined to create materials like crystalOil and gas exploration, nuclear medicine
 Name came fromGreek word AromosGreek words Isos and Topos

What is Atom?

The word Atom came from the Greek word ‘Aromos”, which translates into “Atoms” the term was coined by the Greek philosopher Democritus in 400 BC. Some drawings and illustrations of what he thought an Atom looked like.

An atom is a dense nucleus made up of protons and neutral neutrons. The heart is surrounded by electrons that are negatively charged.

The general structure of an Atom includes the following:

1. A nucleus is in the centre of the atom.

2. The nucleus includes positively charged protons.

The process of electronic tunnelling is used in different microscopes to see Atoms. GERD Binning and Heinrich Rohrer in the 70s built the machine.


What is Isotope?

The name came from the Greek roots “Isos” and “topos”, translating into “the same place. As a fact, The charge on the proton and electron are the same size but opposite and thus cancel each other out. There are two main types of Isotopes:

  1. Stable Isotopes: Elements with the same number of protons but a different number of neutrons.
  2. Unstable Isotopes: These decay over time and form into another different Isotope.

Simply defined, Isotopes are Atoms of the same element with the same number of protons but a different number of neutrons. The most common use for Isotopes is for nuclear power generation.

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Main Differences Between Atoms and Isotopes 

  1. The number of neutrons can change in an Atom, but in an Isotope, the number can’t.
  2. Isotopes have higher or more enormous masses than Atoms since the number of neutrons differs.
Difference Between Atom and Isotope

Last Updated : 11 June, 2023

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21 thoughts on “Atom vs Isotope: Difference and Comparison”

    • Exactly, I feel the same way. But I don’t understand why atoms can’t have different number of neutrons, is there any explanation for that?

  1. I’ve read different articles about this topic, and yours is the most complete and understandable of all, good job.

  2. Are we already in Chemistry class? A very good explantion, I think you can improve a little more, but I like the topic.

  3. The article is good, but it could go into a little more detail. I’m a high school chemistry teacher, and I think it’s important for students to understand in-depth this difference


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