How Atoms & Molecules Form Solids: Patterns & Crystals

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  • 0:02 What Is a Solid?
  • 1:03 Mixtures & Crystal Patterns
  • 1:42 Examples
  • 2:42 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: David Wood

David has taught Honors Physics, AP Physics, IB Physics and general science courses. He has a Masters in Education, and a Bachelors in Physics.

After watching this video, you will be able to explain how atoms and molecules form solids, whether in the form of random mixtures or crystal patterns. A short quiz will follow.

What Is a Solid?

A solid is a substance or object where the particles are tightly packed in neat, orderly rows. If something's a solid, then it means it isn't a liquid or a gas. Solids have a fixed shape and volume, unlike liquids and gases. But, what exactly are those particles that make up a solid?

Solids can be made of lots of things. They can contain pure elements, for example, you could have a solid chunk of iron. But solids can also contain a mixture of more than one type of atom. Those atoms could be separate, like a mixture of iron and aluminum, or the atoms could be bonded with other types of atoms to form compounds.

A compound is a pure chemical substance made of two or more different chemical elements. A compound is where atoms of different types are joined together in molecules. For example, water is a compound. Water has the chemical name H2O because it contains two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom chemically bonded together.

Mixtures and Crystal Patterns

A solid can be made of a homogeneous mixture, where any components that make it up are spread evenly around each other. But it can also be a heterogeneous mixture, where different parts of the solid have different concentrations of the solid's components. But either way, mixtures tend to be fairly random and haphazard.

Crystals, on the other hand, aren't at all haphazard. A crystal is a form of solid where the atoms are arranged in a predictable, specific pattern. Not all substances can form crystals because they're very delicate and specific. The atoms in a crystal form a repeating pattern called a crystal lattice.

Examples: Diamond, Table Salt and Polymers

Diamond is an example of a crystal. Diamond is made of pure carbon atoms. There's nothing else inside a diamond but carbon. The same is true of the graphite in a pencil. But diamonds and graphite look very different. This is all because of how the carbon atoms are arranged. When carbon atoms form diamond crystals, they move into a structure that is super hard and strong.

Table salt is another example of a crystal. Table salt has the chemical name sodium chloride because it's made of sodium and chlorine. The sodium and chlorine atoms are arranged in a crystal structure - a specific, repeated pattern.

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