Question: What is the fundamental unit of matter in chemistry?
In chemistry the fundamental unit is the "atom."
Atoms are themselves made up of smaller components called electrons, protons, and neutrons. These components are made up of even smaller components such as "quarks." Ultimately, the fundamental units of "string theory" (which are called superstrings) may turn out to be the most fundamental unit of everything. Or maybe something even smaller will exist!
Electrons, protons, and neutrons are definitely used in explaining the behavior of chemicals. For instance, the number of electrons in the valence shell of an atom is critical to predicting how the chemical will react with other chemicals. But in general, chemistry is about individual atoms and groups of atoms called molecules. For instance, we think of water as "H2O", meaning the combination of 1 oxygen atom and 2 hydrogen atoms. We don't think of water in terms of its total number of electrons, protons, and neutrons.
by Dr. Noh
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