We’ve teamed up through the people behind BBC world Service’s CrowdScience come answer your questions on one subject - this week it"s all around the smallest particle.

You are watching: What is the smallest part of an element


The old Greeks had a surname for the the smallest particle: the ‘atom’, meaning ‘not cuttable’. But ever due to the fact that Ernest Rutherford famously separation the atom in experiment at Cambridge University approximately a century ago, it’s to be clear the the surname is a misnomer. He uncovered that atoms contain a central nucleus approximately 10,000 times smaller sized than the atom itself.


By the early 1960s, researcher firing electron at atoms to be finding clues that also the protons and neutrons making up atomic nuclei contain some kind of structure – now recognized to be quarks – trapped within them. In the last few years, experiments at the huge Hadron Collider fragment accelerator have argued that quarks may themselves it is in at the very least 10,000 times smaller sized than protons and neutrons.

But yes one subatomic bit that’s much smaller still, and not even the most powerful particle accelerator has come close to pinning down its size: the electron.


Physics textbooks sometimes mention the so-called ‘classical radius of the electron’, which – at approximately three-million-billionths of a metre – is similar to the of a proton. But this comes from a concept that presume the electron is just a ball of electromagnetic energy, i m sorry isn’t yes, really true.


A more reliable insight into that is true size comes from using quantum theory, i m sorry ties the size of subatomic corpuscle to their angular inert (‘spin’) and their magnetic properties. In the case of the electron, dimensions of these properties suggest that the electron is at the very least 1,000 times smaller even than quarks.

See more: Names Of 25 Animal That Starts With The Letter O, Animals That Start With O

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