According to Bohr’s atomic theory, an atom is composed of a nucleus at the center and one or more electrons rotating around the nucleus along different energy orbits. The nucleus is primarily composed of protons and neutrons, collectively called nucleons. For an atom of a given element, the number of electrons moving around the nucleus equals the number of protons, balancing the electrical charge of the nucleus. The size of an atom is of the order of 10-8 cm (1 angstrom, Å) and that of a nucleus is of the order of 10-13 cm (equal to a unit termed the fermi, F). The electron configuration of the atom determines the chemical properties of an element, whereas the nuclear structure characterizes the stability and radioactive decay of the nucleus of an atom.


Atomic Number Mass Number Electron Configuration Nuclear Force Principal Quantum Number 
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Suggested Reading

  1. Friedlander G, Kennedy JW, Miller JM. Nuclear and Radiochemistry. 3rd ed. New York: Wiley; 1981.Google Scholar
  2. Sorensen JA, Phelps ME. Physics in Nuclear Medicine. 2nd ed. New York: Grune & Stratton; 1987.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gopal B. Saha
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Nuclear MedicineThe Cleveland Clinic FoundationClevelandUSA

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