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Why is an atom neutral?

Last updated date: 13th Jun 2024
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Hint: For understanding the electrical neutrality of an atom, we need to know about an atom and the subatomic particles of which it is made of. We also need to know how charges in an atom produced by its subatomic particles balance out each other leading to a neutral atom.

Complete Step by step answer: An atom is the smallest unit of the matter that forms a chemical element. Everything around us is composed of neutral or ionized atoms.
An atom is composed of a central nucleus around which one or more electrons revolve in a fixed orbit due to attractive electrostatic force to the protons in the nucleus. The nucleus is made of protons and neutrons which are held together by nuclear force.
Here, protons, neutrons and electrons are the subatomic particles from which an atom is made up of.
Protons are positively charged subatomic particles and electrons are negatively charged particles. Both carry the same magnitude of charge but are opposite in nature. Neutron is neutral, that is it does not carry any charge in it.
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Now, for an atom to be electrically neutral, the number of electrons and protons should be the same. As they carry the same magnitude of charge with opposite signs, their charges balance and cancel each other resulting in neutrality of the atom. Neutrons do not have any role in maintaining the neutrality of an atom as it is neutral in nature, that is it does not carry any charge.

Additional information: The atoms which have positive or negative charges on them are called ions and are not stable. So, these ions combine accordingly to form electrically neutral chemical compounds which are stable.

Note: It is only the electrons and protons whose number in an atom determine whether an atom is electrically neutral or has positive or negative charges as ions. Neutrons do not have any role in maintaining the electrical neutrality of an atom.