# Atom to have no electrons?

Gary King

## Main Question or Discussion Point

is it possible for an atom to have no electrons?

movies
Sure. This can be done quite easily in the gas phase. In solutions cationic species will be solvated by other molecules, but can be thought of as essentially "electronless."

vsage
The easiest example to give are the Hydrogen ions that give acidity to a solution. Those $$H^+$$ atoms are just nuclei.

ZapperZ
Staff Emeritus
2018 Award
Or consider the alpha particles, as in radiation particles. These are nothing more than bare helium nuclei.

Zz.

chem_tr
Gold Member
ZapperZ, I am doubtful about this. When you write the alpha particle, $^{4}_{2}He$, you'll see that two electrons are present as this compound is neutral and monoatomic. You'd be correct if this compound were a 2+ ion. Or is there something I don't know?

vsage
chem_tr said:
ZapperZ, I am doubtful about this. When you write the alpha particle, $^{4}_{2}He$, you'll see that two electrons are present as this compound is neutral and monoatomic. You'd be correct if this compound were a 2+ ion. Or is there something I don't know?
Didn't rutherford use alpha particles in his gold foil experiment? I don't know if having electrons would have changed his result but I guess I always assumed that The alpha particles deflected off the nuclei of the atoms of the gold because they had a +2e charge. It's been over a year since I touched chemistry though and even then it was only first or second semester general chemistry so there's an exceedingly high probability I don't know what I'm talking about :).

chem_tr said:
ZapperZ, I am doubtful about this. When you write the alpha particle, $^{4}_{2}He$, you'll see that two electrons are present as this compound is neutral and monoatomic. You'd be correct if this compound were a 2+ ion. Or is there something I don't know?
ALpha particles are charged, they can be denoted by $^{4}_{2}He^{2+}$ or just $^{4}_{2}\alpha$. They are generated in the following reaction type:
$^{a}_{b}X --> ^{4}_{2}\alpha+^{a-4}_{b-2}Y$

They are highly ionisating radiation, and can be defelcted in magnetic fields or accelerated in electric fields.

chem_tr
Gold Member
Thank you for this valuable information. One small tip (not important at all), use \longrightarrow in the LaTeX image to obtain $^{a}_{b}X \longrightarrow ^{4}_{2}\alpha+^{a-4}_{b-2}Y$

We understand that only small atoms can give all of their electrons; bigger atoms may be persuaded to give most of their electrons to yield unusual charges via core (nuclear) reactions, I think.

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chem_tr said:
\longrightarrow
Thanks! I was trying to find that..

chem_tr said:
We understand that only small atoms can give all of their electrons; bigger atoms may be persuaded to give most of their electrons to yield unusual charges via core (nuclear) reactions, I think.
Yes, I suppose that it´s difficult to take out the "last" electrons of a big atom due to the high Z value (that causes very low energy values of the first atomic orbitals)

ZapperZ
Staff Emeritus
2018 Award
chem_tr said:
ZapperZ, I am doubtful about this. When you write the alpha particle, $^{4}_{2}He$, you'll see that two electrons are present as this compound is neutral and monoatomic. You'd be correct if this compound were a 2+ ion. Or is there something I don't know?
http://scienceworld.wolfram.com/physics/AlphaParticle.html

I'm also a certified Radiological Worker 1(OSHA category here in the US) since I work in a radiation controlled area. All the radiation safety training standards have defined "alpha radiation" as the doubly-ionized He.

Zz.

chem_tr
Gold Member
Okay, thank you for the information. I didn't know that alpha particle is doubly ionized. So it is different from ordinary helium gas, our high-school-level chemistry courses state that alpha particle is the same as helium, and this doesn't seem to be correct.

Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
Dearly Missed
The alpha particle is a helium NUCLEUS, not a helium atom.

mrjeffy321
An Atom is: as defined from dictionary.com:
"A unit of matter, the smallest unit of an element, having all the characteristics of that element and consisting of a dense, central, positively charged nucleus surrounded by a system of electrons. The entire structure has an approximate diameter of 10-8 centimeter and characteristically remains undivided in chemical reactions except for limited removal, transfer, or exchange of certain electrons."
so, in my opinion, No, it is not possible for an atom to have no elections becuase first of all it wouldnt be uncharged (which although is not included in the defintion above, needs to be true, other wise it is an ion), and second of all, it wouldnt share all the same characteristics of the element it should belong to, for example, the alpha particle above you all were talking about will not share the same properties as a helium atom will.

mrjeffy321 said:
first of all it wouldnt be uncharged (which although is not included in the defintion above, needs to be true, other wise it is an ion),
Of course. That´s the correct way of calling it. Nobody doubts that an ion is a completely different system than the neutral species, and that an hellium nucleus is NOT an helium atom.

mrjeffy321
well the question was whether it was possible for an atom to have no electrons, not whether protons (and possible neutrons) could exist without electrons.

ZapperZ
Staff Emeritus
2018 Award
mrjeffy321 said:
well the question was whether it was possible for an atom to have no electrons, not whether protons (and possible neutrons) could exist without electrons.
An atom without electrons IS just a lump of protons and neutrons! When you strip away all the electrons, you are left with just the nucleus. You were given two specific examples already.

Zz.

chem_tr
Gold Member
ZapperZ is right, but only few examples can be mentioned about this. The most famous one is hydrogen ion, $\displaystyle H^+$ and the other is alpha particle, $\displaystyle ^{4}_{2}He^{2+}$.

However, there are not many; the other alternatives are so unstable that we can conclude these two are the only easily available. Please consider $\displaystyle Li^{3+},Be^{4+},B^{5+}$. Very high amounts of energy have to be given to provide these unusual oxidation states.

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Chronos
Gold Member
Simple definitions might work here. The number of electrons surrounding the nucleus determine whether or not an atom is electrically charged or neutral. If an atom contains equal numbers of protons and electrons, it is described as being electrically neutral [and elemental]. If it has an unequal number of protons and electrons, it is an ion. An atom totally stripped of electrons is, technically speaking, a positively charged ion.

chem_tr said:
However, there are not many; the other alternatives are so unstable that we can conclude these two are the only easily available. Please consider $\displaystyle Li^{3+},Be^{4+},B^{5+}$. Very high amounts of energy have to be given to provide these unusual oxidation states.
Yes, we are talking about fully charged plasmas, theese species are available in high energy physics labs.

Perhaps, those that you mentioned could be produced by laser ablation (firing laser directly to the solid or to a MALDI)in spectroscopy labs but i´m not sure.

chem_tr
Gold Member
altered-gravity said:
Perhaps, those that you mentioned could be produced by laser ablation (firing laser directly to the solid or to a MALDI)in spectroscopy labs but i´m not sure.
In a temporary basis, yes, they may occur in a very short time span, and spectroscopy may give indications of their presence. But it is not too easy, as we know.

ZapperZ
Staff Emeritus
2018 Award
altered-gravity said:
Yes, we are talking about fully charged plasmas, theese species are available in high energy physics labs.

Perhaps, those that you mentioned could be produced by laser ablation (firing laser directly to the solid or to a MALDI)in spectroscopy labs but i´m not sure.
Laser ablation typically does NOT produce plasma ions. If they do, they would not be used as a technique for thin film depostion since the stoichiometry of the film may be different than the target. There are, of course, exception to this as done at the National Ignition Facility. Here, the plasma is form via extremely intense laser source.

Zz.

ZapperZ said:
Laser ablation typically does NOT produce plasma ions. If they do, they would not be used as a technique for thin film depostion since the stoichiometry of the film may be different than the target. There are, of course, exception to this as done at the National Ignition Facility. Here, the plasma is form via extremely intense laser source.
Zz.
Really? Now I´m confused. I´ve always thougth that the ablation plume was plasma. It´s a mixture of ions, neutrals, electrons.. A college of mine worked in a Pb ionisation experiment with laser ablation mass spectrometer and we always talked about ablation plume as plasma-like. Laser source was a standard commercial pulsed Nd:YAG (freq. doubled). Of course they were not "fully charged" species, Pb2+, Pb3+, neutrals and others.

Am I wrong? If you can clarify this to me I will be grateful. Thanks

ZapperZ
Staff Emeritus
2018 Award
altered-gravity said:
Really? Now I´m confused. I´ve always thougth that the ablation plume was plasma. It´s a mixture of ions, neutrals, electrons.. A college of mine worked in a Pb ionisation experiment with laser ablation mass spectrometer and we always talked about ablation plume as plasma-like. Laser source was a standard commercial pulsed Nd:YAG (freq. doubled). Of course they were not "fully charged" species, Pb2+, Pb3+, neutrals and others.

Am I wrong? If you can clarify this to me I will be grateful. Thanks
Humm... I think you may be correct. The laser ablation technique uses a typical eximer laser that do not create a plasma vapor of the ablated material. Thus you preserve the composition of the target material in the thin film that formed. I am using a Nd:YAG laser right now, but not for ablation purposes. Unfortunately, sometime we do "ablate" our photocathode if we set the intensity wrong. But in this case, I have no idea if we created a "plasma" of the ablated material.

Zz.

ZapperZ said:
Thus you preserve the composition of the target material in the thin film that formed
Zz.
Very interesting.. and useful in micro-machining.