Chemistry » Essential Ideas in Chemistry » Models Of The Atom

Bohr’s Model and Others

Niels Henrik David Bohr was a Danish physicist who made foundational contributions to understanding atomic structure and quantum theory, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1922.

Niels_Bohr

Niels Bohr, physicist in 1922. Image credit: public domain

Bohr’s Model of the Atom

There were, however, some problems with Rutherford’s model: for example it could not explain the very interesting observation that atoms only emit light at certain wavelengths or frequencies. Niels Bohr solved this problem by proposing that the electrons could only orbit the nucleus in certain special orbits at different energy levels around the nucleus.

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Bohr’s model of the atom.

James Chadwick

Rutherford predicted (in 1920) that another kind of particle must be present in the nucleus along with the proton. He predicted this because if there were only positively charged protons in the nucleus, then it should break into bits because of the repulsive forces between the like-charged protons! To make sure that the atom stays electrically neutral, this particle would have to be neutral itself. In 1932 James Chadwick discovered the neutron and measured its mass.

Other Models of the Atom

Although the most commonly used model of the atom is the Bohr model, scientists are still developing new and improved theories on what the atom looks like. One of the most important contributions to atomic theory (the field of science that looks at atoms) was the development of quantum theory. Schrodinger, Heisenberg, Born and many others have had a role in developing quantum theory.

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