Computer Sciences

Researchers create first programmable, logical quantum processor

Harvard researchers have realized a key milestone in the quest for stable, scalable quantum computing, an ultra-high-speed technology that will enable game-changing advances in a variety of fields, including medicine, science, ...

Computer Sciences

Finnish researchers claim quantum computing breakthrough

Scientists have created a device which could make it easier to harness super-fast quantum computers for real-world applications, a team at Finland's Aalto University said on Wednesday.

Energy & Green Tech

Hydrogen production and carbon capture in a single step

Hydrogen production takes place using natural gas as the raw material, combined with a very special ceramic membrane. Both hydrogen production and CO2 capture are achieved in a single step, which makes the method highly energy ...

Computer Sciences

Computer scientists create programmable self-assembling DNA

Computer scientists at University of California, Davis, Maynooth University in Ireland and the California Institute of Technology have created DNA molecules that can self-assemble into patterns essentially by running their ...

Electronics & Semiconductors

Researchers isolate single artificial atoms in silicon

Silicon has proved to be a highly valuable and reliable material for fabricating a variety of technologies, including quantum devices. In recent years, researchers have also been investigating the possible advantages of using ...

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Atom

The atom is a basic unit of matter consisting of a dense, central nucleus surrounded by a cloud of negatively charged electrons. The atomic nucleus contains a mix of positively charged protons and electrically neutral neutrons (except in the case of hydrogen-1, which is the only stable nuclide with no neutron). The electrons of an atom are bound to the nucleus by the electromagnetic force. Likewise, a group of atoms can remain bound to each other, forming a molecule. An atom containing an equal number of protons and electrons is electrically neutral, otherwise it has a positive or negative charge and is an ion. An atom is classified according to the number of protons and neutrons in its nucleus: the number of protons determines the chemical element, and the number of neutrons determine the isotope of the element.

The name atom comes from the Greek ἄτομος/átomos, α-τεμνω, which means uncuttable, something that cannot be divided further. The concept of an atom as an indivisible component of matter was first proposed by early Indian and Greek philosophers. In the 17th and 18th centuries, chemists provided a physical basis for this idea by showing that certain substances could not be further broken down by chemical methods. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, physicists discovered subatomic components and structure inside the atom, thereby demonstrating that the 'atom' was divisible. The principles of quantum mechanics were used to successfully model the atom.

Relative to everyday experience, atoms are minuscule objects with proportionately tiny masses. Atoms can only be observed individually using special instruments such as the scanning tunneling microscope. Over 99.9% of an atom's mass is concentrated in the nucleus, with protons and neutrons having roughly equal mass. Each element has at least one isotope with unstable nuclei that can undergo radioactive decay. This can result in a transmutation that changes the number of protons or neutrons in a nucleus. Electrons that are bound to atoms possess a set of stable energy levels, or orbitals, and can undergo transitions between them by absorbing or emitting photons that match the energy differences between the levels. The electrons determine the chemical properties of an element, and strongly influence an atom's magnetic properties.

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