UCSB Science Line What is the total charge on any atom? Question Date: 2014-09-03 Answer 1: Many times when people say “atom” they are implying that there are as many electrons as protons. In this case, the total charge is zero. If an atom loses or gains electrons, it becomes an ion with a positive or negative charge. So an ion is a special case of an atom when it has a total charge that is not zero. Usually if someone is talking about an atom with a positive or negative total charge, they will call it an ion rather than just an atom. Answer 2: The total charge on an atom is neutral. There are equal numbers of protons and electrons. If that's not the case, if there are a different number of electrons than protons, this particle would be called an ion, and it would have a charge. Answer 3: The overall charge of an atom is zero. Atoms are made up of positively charged particles called protons and negatively charged particles called electrons as well as non-charged particles called neutrons. The charge from a proton or electron are of equal strength, therefore if an atom has an equal number of protons and electrons, it will be electrically neutral. However, atoms are not always electrically neutral, in which case they are called ions. An ion is an atom that has lost or gained electrons resulting in a positive charge (from losing electrons) or a negative charge (from gaining electrons). Answer 4: An atom, is, by definition, neutral, so the total charge will always be zero. Any charged atom is called an ion. However, there are many individual charges that can potentially make up an atom. A positive charge is carried by protons, and a negative charge is carried by electrons, and in a neutral atom, there are an equal number of protons and electrons. Answer 5: t depends on the molecule the atom is. Atoms in a neutral state have an even number of protons and electrons, but these electrons can jump between atoms interacting with each other, which changes the charge. In their ground states, atoms have no charge. Answer 6: What you are calling total charge, I am going to call net charge. By definition an atom has zero net charge. There are equal amounts of protons in the nucleus and electrons in the orbitals. An ion is an atom with a positive or negative charge because the atom either gained or lost an electron. Answer 7: The charge of an atom is the number of protons minus the number of electrons. Usually, these two numbers are equal, so the atom is neutral (charge of zero). Answer 8:An atom is defined as having the same number of electrons (negative charge), protons (positive charge) and neutrons (no charge). This means that it will have the same amount of negative and positive charge, giving it a net zero charge. On the other hand, an ion has different amount of electrons and protons. So, depending on the difference in the number of electrons and protons, the ion could have either a positive or a negative total charge.Click Here to return to the search form.    Copyright © 2017 The Regents of the University of California, All Rights Reserved. UCSB Terms of Use