the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory
the U.S. Department of Energy
This interactive science module introduces students to the basic structure of matter, including atoms, ions, elements, and molecules. Animations and simulations help learners to visualize atomic/molecular structure and build a foundation to understand electron sharing. Real data from plasma physics research can be used to further explore the basic properties of matter. Students will apply their learning in a density lab where they predict and test which objects sink and which float.
This resource is part of the Interactive Plasma Physics Education Experience (IPPEX), a project developed to allow students and teachers to participate remotely in scientific research at the nation's largest fusion energy laboratory. See Related Items for a link to the IPPEX home page.
Please note that this resource requires
atomic structure, fusion, molecular structure, molecular structure, states of matter, virtual experiments
Metadata instance created
November 30, 2010
by Caroline Hall
July 8, 2012
by Lyle Barbato
Last Update when Cataloged:
November 29, 2010
AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)
11. Common Themes
6-8: 11B/M1. Models are often used to think about processes that happen too slowly, too quickly, or on too small a scale to observe directly. They are also used for processes that are too vast, too complex, or too dangerous to study.
AAAS Benchmark Alignments (1993 Version)
4. THE PHYSICAL SETTING
D. The Structure of Matter
4D (6-8) #1. All matter is made up of atoms, which are far too small to see directly through a microscope. The atoms of any element are alike but are different from atoms of other elements. Atoms may stick together in well-defined molecules or may be packed together in large arrays. Different arrangements of atoms into groups compose all substances.
4D (6-8) #3. Atoms and molecules are perpetually in motion. Increased temperature means greater average energy, so most substances expand when heated. In solids, the atoms are closely locked in position and can only vibrate. In liquids, the atoms or molecules have higher energy, are more loosely connected, and can slide past one another; some molecules may get enough energy to escape into a gas. In gases, the atoms or molecules have still more energy and are free of one another except during occasional collisions.
4D (9-12) #1. Atoms are made of a positive nucleus surrounded by negative electrons. An atom's electron configuration, particularly the outermost electrons, determines how the atom can interact with other atoms. Atoms form bonds to other atoms by transferring or sharing electrons.
4D (9-12) #2. The nucleus, a tiny fraction of the volume of an atom, is composed of protons and neutrons, each almost two thousand times heavier than an electron. The number of positive protons in the nucleus determines what an atom's electron configuration can be and so defines the element. In a neutral atom, the number of electrons equals the number of protons. But an atom may acquire an unbalanced charge by gaining or losing electrons.
11. COMMON THEMES
11B (6-8) #3. Different models can be used to represent the same thing. What kind of a model to use and how complex it should be depends on its purpose. The usefulness of a model may be limited if it is too simple or if it is needlessly complicated. Choosing a useful model is one of the instances in which intuition and creativity come into play in science, mathematics, and engineering.
This resource is part of 2 Physics Front Topical Units.
Topic: Particles and Interactions and the Standard Model Unit Title: Matter and Interactions
This animated tutorial does an solid job of helping beginners visualize the structure of an atom. They will explore the atomic nucleus, the electron cloud, ions, and isotopes. It gives students a good foundation to understand how electrons are shared to form molecules. **NOTE: Requires Shockwave to operate. Allow one class period in computer lab.
Topic: Particles and Interactions and the Standard Model Unit Title: The Standard Model
This tutorial introduces students to the basic structure of matter, including elements, molecules, and atoms. Animations help beginning learners visualize atomic/molecular structure and build a foundation to understand electron sharing. Editor's Note: The Shockwave tutorial takes one class period; the accompanying labs are optional.
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