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Size of molecules and emptiness of matter (Read 4561 times)
Gerrit-Jan Linker
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Size of molecules and emptiness of matter
29.11.08 at 11:10:36
Size of molecules and emptiness of matter
To get a feeling of the size of molecules it is useful to start from sizes of objects we know and work our way down to smaller and smaller scales.

  • 1 - meter:
    The length of one meter is easy to visualise. It is roughly the size of an arm of an adult.
  • 10-3 - millimeter:
    One thousandst of one meter is the smallest things we can clearly identify with the naked eye. It is the thickness of a finger nail.
  • 10-6 - micrometer:
    This is the realm of microscopes. The size of bacteria - microbes. You cannot see them with the naked eye however with microscopes you can investigate this world.
  • 10-9 - nanometer:
    Not visible anymore with standard microscopes this scale is the smallest scale we can make things in: nanotechnology. Connections on computer chips are of the size of nanometers.  
  • 10-10 - a tenth of a nanometer - 1 Angstrom:
    This is roughly the size of an atom. Different atoms do not very much vary in size and the typical size is that of 10-10 meters.
  • 10-14 meter:
    This is the size of the nucleus.  

If the atom is of the size of 10-10 meter and since molecules are built from atoms, molecules are of the scale of 10-10 meters too. The more atoms that make up the molecule the larger the molecule is. We can have molecules from a few Angstrom to 10 or 20 Angstroms long and even longer.
Since the nucleus is 10 thousand times smaller than the atom actually most of matter is empty space. The electrons "orbit" around the nucleus and it is the electrons that makes atoms interact to form molecules. Even the most solid material consists of empty space and the hardness of the meterial is a consequence of interacting electrons far away from the nucleii to which they belong.
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Gerrit-Jan Linker
Linker IT Software
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