Difference Between Element and Compound

Introduction to Elements and Compunds


Compound and element are two very important terms in science. Difference between compounds and elements is the most commonly asked questions in various chemistry examinations. 

Students need to be thorough with all the aspects of compounds and elements so as to understand them easily. They are different in their chemical and physical properties in several ways.

Before you check the difference between a compound and an element, it is very important to know about them and get an in-depth understanding of the various concepts associated with them. We are presenting before you some of the key differences in an element and a compound in an easy and elaborate manner. 
Compounds are made up of different types of elements in a set ratio. For example, a single atom of Na / sodium when combined with a single atom of Cl or chlorine can easily form a single molecule of NaCl or sodium chloride compound.
The elements contained in a compound do not always hold their true properties and cannot get separated by any of the physical means. The combination of elements gets facilitated by the valency which is defined as the total number of atoms in a Hydrogen molecule needed to combine with a single atom of an element to form a compound. 

Most of the compounds exist in the form of solids and can also get decomposed if heat is applied to them. Sometimes foreign elements also get stuck inside the crystal-like structure of the compounds that gives them a non-homogeneous structure.
Compounds get represented by the chemical formula that follows the “Hill system.” In this system, C (carbon) atoms are shown first, which is followed by H (hydrogen) atoms. Once they are shown, all the elements are listed on the basis of their alphabetical order.

Elements are used to refer to any specific state of matter such as gas, liquid, solid, air, etc. Indian, Greek and Japanese traditions refer to a total of 5 elements that are named as air, earth, water, ether, and fire. In understanding elements and compounds, the contribution of a few scientists as Antoine Lavoisier, Robert Boyle and Dmitri Mendeleev are commendable. Lavoisier was regarded as the first scientist to have made the list of certain chemical elements. 

Mendeleev was considered to be the first scientist to have arranged elements as per the atomic number in its Periodic Table. The current definition regarding an element is given by a famous scientist Henry Moseley who has stated that an atom’s atomic number is represented by the way of its nuclear charge.

Before the year 1800, the term compound only meant a mixture. There were several types of research carried on this mixture later and in the nineteenth century, it was found that a compound can also be differentiated from a mixture. 

Alchemists such as Dalton, Berthollet and Joseph Louis Proust performed studies on various compounds to come up with a modern definition of a compound. The research of Proust showcased the entire world that compounds are a fixed composition of different elements contained in it.

Understanding the differences between an element and a compound

A compound is formed when 2 or more than two elements make a chemical bond with each other. Some of the common examples of compounds are water, sugar, and salt. Some of the examples of elements are iron, hydrogen, copper and oxygen.
In the case of elements, when they get joined to form a chemical bond, the atoms present in them start to lose their properties and get properties that vary from the properties of the elements that they were made up of.

Both elements as well as compounds are completely pure kind of chemical substances that are present in nature. The primary difference between a compound and an element is that where a compound is made up of different elements in certain ratios, an element is composed of similar kinds of atoms that exhibit the same properties as that of the element. 

Elements are ranked on the PT (Periodic Table) as per their atomic number. There are a total of one hundred and seventeen known elements in the table, out of which ninety-four of them occur naturally like carbon, hydrogen, oxygen etc. Only twenty-two of them are synthetically produced and undergo radioactive changes. 

The basic reason behind this unstable behavior is that they undergo a form of radioactive decay that lasts for a good period of time. This gives rise to the formation of new elements at the time of the process such as Thorium, Uranium, Bismuth etc. Elements that combine in proper ratios give rise to the formation of stable compounds. This is because of the chemical bonds that aid in facilitating the formation of a compound.

A compound is made up of atoms of varying elements that are combined chemically in a fixed proportion. On the other hand, an element is a form of a pure chemical substance that is made using the same kind of atom.

The way a compound is represented is in the form of a chemical formula. It represents the codes of the fundamental elements along with the number of atoms present in each element in a single molecule of a compound. Just like compounds, symbols are used to represent an element. 

Different elements in a compound are arranged via a chemical bond. They are made with the help of only one kind of molecule. These elements that are made up of compounds are combined chemically. Elements have only one kind of atom and each of these atoms bear the same atomic number. (An atomic number is represented as the number of protons contained in the nucleus)

A compound can easily be broken down into simpler substances by the help of chemical methods or reactions. On the other hand, an element is hard to be broken into simpler ones via chemical reactions.

A chemical compound can be created in a virtually unending way by the help of chemical reactions and bonding. They can be formed in the form of either a molecular compound, intermetallic complex and compound and an ionic compound. In total, there are nearly about one hundred and seventeen elements that are seen in the Periodic Table. Each of them can be classified in the form of a metal, metalloid or a non-metal.

Elements are differentiated from each other on the basis of their name, atomic number, symbol, boiling point, melting point, ionization energies, and density. When seen in the PT / Periodic Table, all the elements get arranged as per their atomic number. They are also grouped in accordance with the similar type of chemical properties that they share. These are depicted in the form of symbols.

The differences between a compound and an element lie at the atomic level. Elements are made using one kind of atoms, whereas compounds are made with more than one kind of atoms. Both elements as well as compounds are substances but they differ from each other on the basis of different substances that are combined together and through atomic bonding.
Elements are categorized in the form of a metal, nonmetal or a metalloid. Compounds, on the other hand, are categorized as per their bonding. They can be either molecular, ionic, or metallic.