Difference Between Elements and Atoms

Terminologies like Elements and Atoms are very frequently used while studying Chemistry and sometimes Physics too. However, as the subject advances and gets more and more complicated, the meanings of the terms can get easily confused.


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Elements vs Atoms

The difference between Elements and Atoms is that an element is the most simplistic form of a substance which is made up of atoms. An element is classified depending on its atomic number. Subatomic particles combine to form atoms, which later combine to form an element. Later on, elements combine to form molecules.

Elements vs Atoms

Unlike chemical compounds, chemical elements cannot be segmented into simpler substances by any chemical method. In the periodic table of elements, the elements are systematized by their atomic number.

An atom is the tiniest fraction of conventional matter that creates a chemical element. An atom is composed of subatomic particles. To put it in simple words, atoms are the building blocks for composing the elements.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonElementsAtoms
SizeBigger than atomsVery small (cannot be even seen under a microscope)
Number of typesThere are in total 118 elements.There are approximately 92 kinds of atoms available in nature.
CompositionA specific element is comprised of only one particular type of atom.Atoms are composed of subatomic particles. They are protons, electrons, and neutrons.
When they combineElements combine to form new chemical reactions.When atoms combine, they form the molecule.
WeightHeavier than a singular atom.Extremely Light (Relative weight is 1 AMU)

What are Elements?

In chemistry, an element is a basic concept which one needs to know to understand advanced chemistry. An element, in its atomic nuclei, is composed only of atoms that contain the same number of protons.

Chemical elements cannot be divided down into more simplistic elements or substances with the use of any chemical means and method.The latter is attributed as the atomic number, and it is represented by the symbol ‘Z.’ 

Modern chemistry depends a lot on the period table. All the discovered elements are categorized and systematically organized in the periodic table. This concept was devised by the Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev in 1869. 

The characteristics of an element are responsible for its physical state at room or normal temperature. It can be either in a gaseous state or solid or liquid.

There are approximately 118 types of elements in total. 

Few examples of elements are as follows:

  1. Hydrogen 
  2. Carbon 
  3. Neon 
  4. Magnesium 
  5. Aluminium 
  6. Boron

What are Atoms?

Atoms are the smallest unit of ordinary matter. They are extremely small, with an approximate size of 100 picometers. Also, an atom is extremely light weighted. Relatively the weight of the latter is relatively 1AMU.

The nucleus is composed of one or more protons and several neutrons. There is only one exception to this rule, that is Hydrogen, which has no neutrons. 99.94% of an atom’s mass is accounted for by the nucleus. 

The protons possess a positive electric charge, the electrons contain a negative electric charge, whereas the neutrons do not have any electric charge. An atom is electrically neutral when the number of protons and the electrons are equal.

There are 92 various types of atoms in nature. 

 The primary concept and notion that matter is made up of extremely small indivisible particles are very old. The history of atoms goes back to the ancient times of India and Greece.


Main Differences Between Elements and Atoms

  1. When more than one element combines, they form a new chemical reaction resulting in a new element, whereas when more than one atom combine (keeping various matters constant), they form a molecule.
  2. The weight of the element is heavier when compared to that of the atom, whereas, in the case of atoms, the latter is extremely light. The relative weight of the latter is approximately 1 AMU.
Difference Between Elements and Atoms


  1. https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=EvTI-ouH3SsC&oi=fnd&pg=PP1&dq=elements&ots=pQ5TOAfsJ3&sig=LBL5oWU1-cH9p_y8JPtdmdjok7g
  2. https://pubs.acs.org/doi/pdf/10.1021/ar00109a003

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