The Basic Matters of Matter
Why does the word Mineral mean to you?
Partly because people do not learn about minerals early in their education, few truly appreciate their
significance (a real pity). Also, minerals and the products derived from them are so imbedded in our
lives, we scarcely think about them on a regular basis!
Minerals are the building blocks of rocks - the very foundations of planet we live on!
Provide the ultimate raw materials for much of the “stuff” we use on a daily basis (if it can’t be
grown, it’s gotta be mined).
Are the basis of our economy (especially true for Canada)
Are the basis of life (many elements essential to living things ultimately come from minerals)
They dictate the chemistry of the oceans
They interact with the atmosphere (affecting climate and are relevant to pollution issues)
What exactly is a Mineral?
A mineral is a substance that:
1. Is a solid
2. Is non-living (inorganic)
3. Has a definite chemical composition
4. Is naturally occurring
5. Has a crystalline internal structure, an ordered internal structure
Minerals are made of ELEMENTS What is an Element?
A chemical element is a pure chemical substance that cannot be broken down to other
substances by normal chemical means.
Elements familiar to most people include hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, sulphur, iron, zinc, lead,
The smallest particle of matter that retains the characteristics of an element is an atom
On the level of atoms, we can think of an element as being a specific type of atom
CALCIUM IS AN ELEMENT NOT A MINERAL
Atom are verrrrrry small particles (< 0.00000001 cm in diameter)
An individual atom has a nucleus made of protons and neutrons.
Zipping around the nucleus at high speed are electrons, that form cloud-like shells (each
defining an energy level).
Nearly all of an atom’s mass is in its nucleus (for practical purposes, we will consider electrons as
weighing nothing – not strictly true, but makes things simpler).
Characteristics of subatomic particles within an atom
Mass (in atomic units) Charge
Proton (blue) 1 + 1
Neutron (orange) 1 0
Electron (grey) 0 - 1
How are elements depicted in the Periodic Table of Elements?
One atom of any given element has a certain number of protons (this is called the atomic number). For
example, carbon always has six protons.
Atomic number (# protons)
Symbol of element
Atomic weight (total weight of 1 atom)
(# protons, neutrons and electrons)
Name of element The atomic weight (the weight of all protons plus neutrons within this atom) is roughly 12
So.. the number of neutrons is:
12 - 6 = 6
(the tiny remaining amount represents the weight of the electrons).
Because common carbon has six protons, it must have six electrons to balance