Science – The Elements – Lithium

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What is an Atom?

The Elements – Helium

What is Lithium?

Lithium is the third element on the periodic table. It has 3 protons, 3 electrons, and 4 neutrons. Lithium gets its name from the Greek word “lithos” which means “stone”.

LithiumLITH-ee-uhm
Atomic Number 3
Atomic Weight6.94
Type of MatterSolid

Lithium is the first element on the periodic table to be a solid at room temperature. It is also the first metal and has a shiny silver color. Lithium is so light that it can float on water! It would be a bad idea to put pure lithium in water though. Lithium explodes when it touches water!

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How was Lithium discovered?

In the 1790s, José Bonifácio discovered a new mineral called petalite in Sweden. He noticed that the rock burned bright red when he threw it in a fire. It burned red because the mineral contained lithium. But he didn’t know that!

Johan August Arfvedson tested petalite in 1817 and figured out that it contained a new metal. He called it “lithium”, probably because it was discovered inside of a stone. He wasn’t able to find a way to separate lithium from the petalite though.

In 1855, two scientists, Robert Bunsen and Augustus Matthiessen, discovered a way to separate pure lithium from minerals. Now it could be studied!

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Fancy Science Words
PetaliteA mineral that contains lithium, aluminum, silicon, and oxygen. It can be clear, yellow, pink, or gray
IonAn atom that has more or less electrons than it has protons

What is Lithium Used For?

The main use for lithium is in rechargeable batteries. Since lithium batteries are so light, they’re great for smartphones, tablets, and laptops. They’re even used in electric cars!

An atom of Lithium

Lithium is used in the glass of huge telescopes to keep lenses and mirrors from getting too hot. It’s also used in grease to keep machinery cool and running smoothly. Some medicines are made with lithium too.

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Science Facts
Lithium batteries work by storing extra electrons. When you charge your battery, electricity flows into the battery and adds electrons to the lithium atoms. This turns the atoms into ions. The atoms move from the positive side of the battery to the negative side. When you use your phone, the lithium atoms move from the negative side of the battery to the positive side. The extra electrons leave the atoms and power your phone!

That’s it for lithium. Next time, we will learn about beryllium. It’s going to be out of this world!

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Science – The Elements – Hydrogen

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What is an Atom?

What is Hydrogen?

Hydrogen is the very first element on the periodic table. It’s made up of just one proton and one electron. Hydrogen atoms are the smallest and lightest atoms that exist, and there are more of them in the universe than anything else!

Hydrogen gets its name from two Greek words. Hydro, which means water, and Genes, which means forming. It got that name because, when hydrogen burns, it makes water! Weird, right?

HydrogenHIGH-druh-jinn
Atomic Number1
Atomic Weight1.008
State of MatterGas

Hydrogen is a gas at room temperature, and it has no color or smell. It doesn’t usually show up by itself on earth, but there is still a lot of it here. Water, or H2O, is made up of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom.

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How was Hydrogen Discovered?

In the 1500s, a scientist named Paracelsus noticed that when he poured acid onto iron it made bubbles. Those bubbles were hydrogen, but he didn’t know it!

Later, in 1671, Robert Boyle did the same experiment and saw the same bubbles. But he didn’t realize it was hydrogen either!

Finally, in 1766, Henry Cavendish did the same experiment again and discovered that the bubbles were hydrogen gas.

An atom of Hydrogen

What is Hydrogen Used for?

Hydrogen is used as a clean fuel today. Some buses and cars run on hydrogen and make steam instead of pollution! Liquid hydrogen is also used as rocket fuel. Astronauts get to space by blasting out steam! Hydrogen can be used to make powerful nuclear bombs, or to clean cuts. You probably have a bottle of hydrogen peroxide at home!

Science Facts
Did you know that the sun is powered by hydrogen? The sun’s powerful gravity mashes hydrogen atoms together to make helium. When hydrogen turns into helium, a huge amount of energy gets released. That’s where all of the heat and light from the sun comes from!

In the next article, we will learn about Helium. Hopefully, I don’t get too carried away!

The Elements – Helium

Science – The Elements – What is an Atom?

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If you can eat it, throw it, dance on it, or ride it to the moon, it’s made of atoms. Atoms are all around us, in fact, they are us! So, what exactly is an atom?

What is an Atom?

Simply put, atoms are the building blocks of matter. Things that take up space are made of matter. Things like basketballs, toothpaste, and air. Stuff like electricity and heat are energy, but we will talk about that another time.

Fancy Science Words
MatterAnything that takes up space.
EnergyPower, like electricity or heat.
ElementAnything that is made up of only one type of atom.

There are 118 different types of atoms that we know of. When we are talking about just one type of atom, we call it an element. Hydrogen is an element, and so is Oxygen. When you put them together, you get water!

Can Atoms be Split Apart?

Atoms can be split apart. But splitting an atom will change its element. Atoms can also be smashed together. This changes their element too.

Fancy Science Words
Nuclear FissionSplitting atoms apart.
Nuclear FusionSmashing atoms together.

For example, an atom of Uranium can be split apart into an atom of Barium and an atom of Krypton. This is called Nuclear Fission.

When two Hydrogen atoms get smashed together, they turn into one atom of Helium. This is called Nuclear Fusion, and that’s how the sun gives us heat and light!

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What are Atoms Made of?

Fancy Science Words
ParticlesSmall parts that make up atoms.
ProtonsA particle with a positive charge.
NeutronsA particle with no charge.
ElectronsA particle with a negative charge.
NucleusThe center of an atom. Made up of protons and neutrons.
Periodic TableA chart listing all of the different types of atoms.

Atoms are kind of like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Jelly is jelly and peanut butter is peanut butter, but when you put them together on bread, you get a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Atoms are made up of three parts too. These parts are called particles. The three particles that make up an atom are protons, neutrons, and electrons.

An atom of Helium

Protons and neutrons stay in the middle of the atom. This is called the nucleus. Electrons circle the nucleus, just like the moon circles the earth. Atoms stick together because protons and electrons have electrical charges. Protons have a positive charge, and electrons have a negative charge. This makes them want to stick together like two magnets.

ElementAtomic Number
Hydrogen1
Helium2
Oxygen8
Krypton36
Barium56
Uranium92

So, there you have it. Atoms are peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and if you stick them together, you can make basketballs and toothpaste. Well… not exactly.

In the next article, we will learn about Hydrogen, the first element on the periodic table. It’s going to be explosive!

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