A lively philosophical debate has lately arisen over the nature of elementhood in chemistry. Two different senses in which the technical term ELEMENT is currently in use by chemists have been identified, leaving chemistry open to the logical fallacy of equivocation. This paper introduces a third, more elemental candidate: the high-enthalpy short-lived unbonded atom. An enthalpy index based on free-atoms-as-elements is established, whereby one can monitor the degree to which an atom’s spin-based attractive force is implemented exo-enthalpically when the atom binds chemically to others. Enthalpy indexing shows that the strength of an atom’s attractive force is proportional to its spin angular momentum. Vibrational spectroscopy shows that the force varies inversely as the fourth power of the inter-atom distance. Both features differentiate the chemical force from the stronger electromagnetic force and from the weaker Van der Waals force.
Homomeric moleculePseudo-elementProtochemical atomAtomic spinChemical forceEnthalpy index