The Plum Pudding Model

  • In 1803 John Dalton presented his atomic theory based on three key ideas:
    1. Matter is made of atoms which are tiny particles that cannot be created, destroyed or divided.
    2. Atoms of the same element are identical and atoms of different elements are different.
    3. Different atoms combine together to form new substances.
  • At the time the theory was correct but as science developed some parts of Dalton’s theory were disproved.
  • In 1897 physicist J.J. Thomson discovered the electron. Using a cathode-ray tube he conducted an experiment which identified the electron as a negatively charged subatomic particle, hence proving that atoms are divisible.

JJ Thomson Cathode Ray Tube, IGCSE & GCSE Chemistry revision notes

Diagram showing an electron beam deflecting towards the positive plate, proving electrons are negatively charged

  • Based on his investigations Thomson proposed a model of the atom known as the plum pudding model which depicted negative electrons spread throughout soft globules of positively charged material.

Plum Pudding Model of the Atom, IGCSE & GCSE Chemistry revision notes

Diagram showing the plum pudding model of the atom

Rutherford Scattering

  • In 1909 Ernest Rutherford presented his model of the atom based on the famous gold foil experiment.
  • Rutherford shot a beam of positively charged particles at a thin sheet of gold foil and, based on the plum pudding model, expected the particles to pass through the foil because the positive charge of the nucleus was thought to be evenly spread out.
  • Some particles were scattered, however, and a few were deflected directly back, which led him to postulate that most of an atom’s mass is concentrated in a region of space at the centre of the atom called the nucleus.
  • In Rutherford’s model the atom consists mainly of empty space with the nucleus at the centre and the electrons orbiting in paths around the nucleus.
  • This model was known as the nuclear model of the atom.

Rutherford's Model of the Atom, IGCSE & GCSE Chemistry revision notes

Diagram showing Ernest Rutherford’s nuclear model of the atom

The Bohr Model

  • In 1913 Niels Bohr further developed the nuclear model by proposing that electrons orbit the nucleus in fixed shells or orbitals located at set distances from the nucleus.
  • Each orbital has a different energy associated with it, with the higher energy orbitals being located further away from the nucleus.
  • This model solved the question of why the atom doesn’t collapse inwards due to the attraction between the positive nucleus and negative electrons circling the nucleus.
  • Bohr’s theory and calculations were in agreement with experimental results.
  • Further investigation and experimentation revealed that the nucleus could be divided into smaller particles, each one having the same mass and charge. This work led to the discovery of the proton.

Niels Bohr’s model of the atom, IGCSE & GCSE Chemistry revision notes

Diagram showing Niels Bohr’s model of the atom

The Discovery of the Neutron

  • In 1920 Rutherford put forward the idea of the existence of large, neutral particles within the nucleus.
  • His idea was based on the differences between the atomic mass and the atomic number of atoms.
  • In 1932 James Chadwick published a paper based on an experiment carried out by Frédéric and Irène Joliot- Curie which provided evidence for the existence of these neutral particles which were called neutrons.

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Morgan Curtin Chemistry

Author: Morgan

Morgan’s passion for the Periodic Table begun on his 10th birthday when he received his first Chemistry set. After studying the subject at university he went on to become a fully fledged Chemistry teacher, and now works in an international school in Madrid! In his spare time he helps create our fantastic resources to help you ace your exams.