Atoms and Ions Explained:
Chemistry Is Nothing to Be Scared Of!

To understand more about water, we need to look through our virtual magnifying glass at the elements which exist all around us. Everything in our world consists of 118 elements, and while 91 of those can be found in nature, 27 have been created for the first time by nuclear reactions. An example of a natural element is oxygen, which we need to breathe.

The elements can form compounds with one another and in doing so create new substances, for example, two oxygen atoms and a single hydrogen atom form water. Each element is abbreviated with a chemical symbol, so an oxygen atom becomes O and the hydrogen atom is H. This is why we can also refer to water as H20, since it is made up of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. When atoms combine, they form a molecule.

An atom like hydrogen is not the smallest of all particles, because an atom consists of protons, neutrons and electrons. Protons are positively charged particles, which together with the neutrons or neutrally charged particles, form the nucleus of the atom. The electrons revolve around this nucleus, in so-called shells. On the most inner shell, you can find up to 2 electrons and up to 8 electrons on the next one. The atom always strives to fill its outer shells first and thereby enter into connections with other atoms, it does this by trying to steal their outer electrons.

An atom always strives to keep its positively and negatively charged particles in equilibrium. As a basic rule, it always has the same number of protons as electrons. The smallest element, the hydrogen atom, has 1 proton in the nucleus and 1 electron in its outer shell, while oxygen has 8 protons and 8 electrons. How many protons and electrons an element can have, is illustrated in the periodic table. The periodic system is depicted in ascending order, starting with the smallest element - the hydrogen atom.

Complete periodic table of the elements

However, an atom can also lose an electron and in doing so become positively charged. These positively charged atoms then become electron magnets or free radicals, because they try to steal an electron from another atom in order to be neutral again. They destroy the structure of the electron shells in other atoms, in a process which is called oxidation.

Once it has one electron too many, an atom or molecule can be negatively charged, and will give an electron to other molecules. If an atom or molecule has a charge - whether positive or negative - it is sometimes called an ion. If water is ionized, many of its molecules are electrically charged. So, both positively charged H3O+ molecules and negatively charged OH- molecules are formed through ionization of water. The OH- molecules are alkaline and good for the body, because they can supply electrons and neutralize free radicals, while the H3O+ molecules are acidic. Water ionizers produce two different types of water: one acidic and the other alkaline. Up to a pH of 9.5 the alkaline water can be used, while the acidic water is ideal for disinfection.

Size Ratios Within An Atom

Looking at the size ratios within an atom is intriguing. The nucleus has a diameter which varies from one ten-thousandth to a hundred thousandth of the total atomic diameter. If you imagine a nucleus to be the size of a golf ball, it would be a ten-thousandth of the entire atomic diameter, but would also have electrons buzzing around the nucleus in a radius of at least 213 meters – making it even larger! If you put the golf ball on a field, then walk 213 meters away, you’d finally hit an electron, but it would be much smaller than a golf ball, around the size of a pinhead. 

For very large atoms, you would need to travel further away to get to the outermost electron, because the distance from the nucleus to the outermost electron can be 100,000 times the diameter of its core. If you placed this golf ball on a field, you would have to travel another 2 kilometres to get to the outermost electron, which would still be tiny. The mass of the core is 99.9% of the total weight of an atom, while the mass of the electrons is 0.1% of its total weight. As you may have gathered, an atom consists of extremely small particles that are in motion and lots of empty space.

colored molecules in space

Electrons, Neutrons, Protons

Electrons, neutrons and protons are the smallest particles of an atom, but there are smaller particles called quarks which consist of electrons, neutrons and protons. Quantum theory deals with those objects, but they are hardly recognizable even with the most powerful microscope.

Basically, protons attract electrons and particles, then with the same charge they push each other away. So why is the core of an element stable, if protons are pushing each other away? This is due to the neutrons in the nucleus, which work as a glue and prevent the nucleus from falling apart.

The electrons won’t crash down into the nucleus if they are attracted by the protons, because electrons are constantly in motion. They retain their energy when they stay in the same orbit, but lose energy when they leave this orbit, so falling into the core results in a loss of energy.

An electron that travels closer to the nucleus gives off energy in the form of light. An electron that travels to a higher orbit or the shell must receive energy to do so. The electron prefers taking the path of least resistance, so remaining on its course it does not give any energy away and therefore does not fall into the nucleus of the atom.

If a core has more than 82 protons it automatically becomes unstable, meaning it disintegrates easily. This is how nuclear fission is used to generate power, as the process releases large amounts of energy. In nuclear power plants, this energy is used to heat water the vapour of which moves turbines, which then produce electricity.

Many scientists now consider the shell model to be outdated. Nevertheless, it remains a helpful way of describing the structure of atoms and understanding their reactions, plus, the periodic system is also based on this model. 

A more accurate method of explaining the behaviour of small particles could be the orbital model, in which the orbital electrons oscillate around the nucleus on different axes. We do not know where the electrons are located in these orbits, so they do not automatically swing on a shell. This phenomenon is known as the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, and in each orbit, there is space for only two electrons, which move in different directions. For now, this will remain a principle, as we do not have powerful enough equipment to measure the movement of such tiny particles.

So, what does this have to do with ionizers? The special feature of ionizers is mentioned in the name: they ionize water. Once inside the device, water it is split into acidic and alkaline solutions through a process called electrolysis. The alkaline part consists of water ions with an electron excess and the acidic part of water ions which are lacking electrons, and are positively charged. The alkaline water can be consumed and will supply electrons, which catch free radicals and neutralize them. Then, the acidic water can either be washed down the drain or used for cleaning.

These information were not written by the American Food and Drug Administration, or any other official authority. This site and its products do not promise to diagnose and cure diseases, or protect you from them. Always consult your doctor when you are sick.