Color of Atom

color of atom
color of atom

We would like to share with you the answer of Stephen H. Pordes from Fermilab on a student's question “The Color of the Atom”.

Our student's question: I will ask a scientific question. As you probably know, we study particles and particle models of matter. My question is, are all atoms the same color? And if it is, or even if it isn't, how do we know! Since they are so small, how can you see what color they are. 

Our teacher's answer was:

Dear Kelly;

1. Atoms (unlike molecules) have no color – they are transparent except under special conditions.
2. Molecules have color
3. We cannot really see the color of an atom, not because it is too small, but because the color of an atom will be too pale.
But you can see one by collecting a large number and shining a light on them. We can see something because the eye collects the light reflected from the object.
But what is the color of something? It's the light it reflects the most, and that's why you feel really warm if you're carrying a black umbrella. Because it absorbs all white light (all of the light is Red-Orange-Yellow-Green-Blue-Navy Blue-Purple). But if you buy a white umbrella, it will reflect all the white light and absorb only some of it.

The part of an atom or molecule that "reflects" light is the electrons outside the atom. Now we can examine the color in two steps.
Step 1: Electrons first absorb some of the light that hits the atom or molecule.
Step 2: The electrons that absorb the light then emit some light.
Matter is "colourless" if the electrons give off exactly the same light they absorb, but has a color if the color of the emitted light is different from the color that is absorbed.
For atoms and regular illumination – whatever the atom – the absorbed light and the emitted light are the same. This is because for a single atom, electrons must absorb and emit the same light.
Now there are some questions we would like to ask you.

these questions
Why is the sky blue? Does that mean oxygen is blue or nitrogen is blue?
Why is chlorine gas green?
Why are neon signs red?
I think you got this question because you see red protons and blue electrons in textbooks.
Textbooks also show particles as round spheres, but keep in mind that this is for visual stuff only. In practice, atoms are not round like spheres and protons and are not colored blue and red 🙂

Dear Kelly;

I hope you have time to read a correction I made in addition to what I wrote. I can't tell you how pleased I am to think about a good question. To our knowledge there are some elements that have a color between atoms.. (Sorry. I said nothing. Guess what? I was wrong.

What I mean is that atoms have little spots of colored paint on them. of course it won't. This will mean that when you shine white light on them, their electrons absorb a certain color and then re-emit it. We can explain how this gives a color to atoms as follows. Imagine a glass jar in which some of these atoms are floating. When you shine a flashlight on the jar, most of the light will go through the jar. For example, you can see that the light comes out and creates a spot on the wall. But the inside of the jar will also appear to glow with a certain color.

This is the color that the atoms absorb. The light of this color does not pass directly through the jar; some of it is absorbed by the atoms floating around it and then radiates (returns) it in all directions. So if you look at the jar from the side, you will see light of a certain color and it will appear as if the inside of the jar is glowing. Sodium (Na in the periodic table) does this and gives it a bright yellow glow. There may be other factors as well. I'll check it out.. I'll send you the full list if it comes.

“I'm sorry for making you read so much - and for the first time I've given you the wrong answer -,” he continues.

It's not easy to demonstrate this with sodium. You will need to heat the sodium in a completely emptied jar. Since sodium is solid at room temperature, heat will be required, and the sodium needs to be really hot to get enough sodium atoms to float around you, you have to get the air out of the jar because sodium can react very strongly with the oxygen in the air and burn.

On behalf of our teacher who answered, we would like to thank him once again.

Source: https://www.fnal.gov/pub/science/inquiring/questions/colorofatoms.html

Stay well….

Contributors:

Physics Teachers

Dr. Fırat Akbalık – Murat Erkmen – Arda Çayan – Hasan Ongan

Günceleme: 04/07/2021 11:41

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