Chemical Elements

November 24, 2012 1:54 pm

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Chemical Elements
You and everything around you are made of chemical elements. The elements are sort of like LEGO or Tinkertoy pieces. You can put LEGO or Tinkertoy pieces together to make new things. You can take an object built of LEGO or Tinkertoy pieces apart. When there is nothing more to take apart, you have a pile of LEGO or Tinkertoy pieces. The pieces are different from the original object. You cannot take apart a LEGO or Tinkertoy piece without breaking it.
Materials, or substances, that you cannot take apart are called elements. Elements can link together to make all kinds of materials. The elements oxygen and hydrogen, for instance, together make water. Oxygen and the element carbon together make carbon dioxide, a gas that plants need.
WHY CAN’T YOU TAKE ELEMENTS APART?
All materials on Earth are made of tiny pieces called atoms. Atoms are much too small to see. Elements are made of only one kind of atom. Compounds are combinations of more than one kind of atom. Water is a compound. Water has two atoms of hydrogen for every one atom of oxygen. You can separate water into hydrogen and oxygen by separating the hydrogen atoms from the oxygen atoms. All compounds can be turned into completely different substances this way. Separating atoms won’t change an element, however, since all its atoms are alike.
WHAT KINDS OF ELEMENTS EXIST?
There are more than 100 elements. Some elements that you may have heard of include aluminum, lead, mercury, uranium, and helium. Elements have different properties. Some are normally solids, some are gases, and a couple are liquids. Elements look different from each other, they weigh different amounts, and they combine in different ways to make compounds. Scientist list all the elements in a chart called the periodic table. Elements that share a column in the table have similar properties.

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