The understanding of the chemical keywords elements and compounds can sometimes be difficult to grasp. There are so many abstract terms in chemistry, that for someone who’s just starting out it can soon become overwhelming. This article will help you get down the fundamentals for your chemistry class, whether it’s in high school or college.
So what is an element in chemistry? Strictly speaking an element is a substance (a something) which can’t be broken down into simpler substances chemically. Therefore you can call elements for fundamental substances; they are the most basic types of these matters that you can get. To give a better idea of what an element really is, let’s look at some examples.
The world we live in contains elements all around us; we just rarely stop to think about it (especially if it’s not for a chemistry class). Oxygen, aluminum, iron and hydrogen are all examples of elements. You can’t take these elements into the lab and break them down by chemical means. You could use a sledge hammer and break them into tiny pieces, but you would still have the same element, only smaller pieces of it. Think of a computer and how the small parts make up the entire machine. Strip the computer into its most basic parts, and you can compare it to an element. You just can’t break it down any further.
So what is a compound in chemistry? Elements can bind together with other elements. If one element has a “liking” to another, it can bind with the second element and form what is called a compound. If a third element comes along and wants to connect with the two, the compound will be bigger and consist of three different elements.
This compound can be taken to the lab, and you can use chemical methods to break them down into the different elements, and then you’ll get back what you started with, so to speak. An example is water, H2O. Water is hydrogen and oxygen elements that bind together to form a compound. This compound can chemically be broken up, so the hydrogen elements and the oxygen elements split up and turn into single elements. In our computer analogy, the compound would be the machine put together.
Now that the basics on the keywords elements and compounds are down, there are a few extra facts to remember. In an element you only have one kind of atom. In Iron you only have Fe elements. In hydrogen gas you have 2 hydrogen molecules, but they are both the same element.
A compound on the other hand always contains atoms of different elements. Think of it this way, if the elements were the same they would just be that element. A compound needs at least a second element to be called a compound.
Chemistry can be made fun if we just start off slow, and take it at an easy speed.