Atomic Structure: Energy in Atoms

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Science Objects are two hour on-line interactive inquiry-based content modules that help teachers better understand the science content they teach. This Science Object is the third of three Science Objects in the Atomic Structure SciPack. It investigates the forces at work within the nuclei of atoms and the energy contained in within atomic nuclei. Scientists continue to investigate atoms and have discovered even smaller constituents of which neutrons and protons are made. The nuclear forces that hold the nucleus of an atom together, at nuclear distances, are almost always stronger than the electric forces that would make it fly apart. Nuclear reactions convert a fraction of the mass of interacting particles into energy, and they can release much greater amounts of energy than interactions between atoms. Fission is the splitting of a large nucleus into smaller pieces. Fusion is the joining of two nuclei at extremely high temperature and pressure, and is the process responsible for the energy of the sun and other stars. Energy is released whenever the nuclei of very heavy atoms, such as uranium or plutonium, split into middleweight ones, or when very light nuclei, such as those of hydrogen and helium, combine into heavier ones.

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Reviews (19)
  • on Mon Sep 01, 2014 6:43 PM

I really enjoy Science Objects. In 1-3 hours, the Atomic Structure: Energy in Atoms will help me re-learn, refresh, or learn for the first time some critical science concepts I will have to know to obtain my Science Educator credentials. I appreciate that I can complete them at my own pace, and that, if used as park of a SciPack, I have access to a content expert to go to for help. The NSTA Learning Center Science Objects are really beneficial!

Naomi Beverly  (Marietta, GA)
Naomi Beverly (Marietta, GA)

  • on Sat Oct 19, 2013 9:09 AM

I've used this SO in class on the smart board and love it. The graphics and interactives really bring this topic to light for the kids. It's so hard to get the students to visualize something they can't see and the addition of sub particles, like quarks is really great!

James Johnson  (Custer City, PA)
James Johnson (Custer City, PA)

  • on Sun May 13, 2012 12:47 PM

The concept was very much simplified so that it is ver easy to understand. Students can understand very complicated concepts like Nuclear fission and fusion on their own pace. The illustrations can be self studied. I had my misconceptionscleared and ironed out. Thanks you.

Ingrid Sly
Ingrid Sly

  • on Sun May 13, 2012 12:47 PM

The concept was very much simplified so that it is ver easy to understand. Students can understand very complicated concepts like Nuclear fission and fusion on their own pace. The illustrations can be self studied. I had my misconceptionscleared and ironed out. Thanks you.

Ingrid Sly
Ingrid Sly

  • on Wed Feb 29, 2012 10:43 PM

Very informative lesson in physical science.

Ronaldo Relador  (Bowie, MD)
Ronaldo Relador (Bowie, MD)

  • on Tue Feb 28, 2012 12:26 PM

This is great!!


  • on Fri Oct 14, 2011 2:30 PM

This resource was quite enlightening, I was able to get a deeper understanding of atomic fission and atomic fussion. I believe with the understanding I have gotten from this resource I will have a better understanding of how I can adapt it to the needs of my students. Great hands-on activity attached as well.


  • on Fri Jun 03, 2011 12:21 PM

The videos and interactive activities on atomic structure, energy, and bonds readily answer questions about atomic forces, all four of them. I would use this SciObject to review my background science content and then take much of it into the classroom as elements of discussions and ‘what if’ questions to prod student thinking. The content serves as a means to interview students to discover what they think happens within an atom and among atoms. The external resources offered are also excellent. This package will enhance student understanding on fusion, fission, energy and mass relationships, and give a peak into how scientists conduct research into the nature of the atom.

Patricia  (Arlington, VA)
Patricia (Arlington, VA)

  • on Mon Jan 31, 2011 11:51 PM

This is a wonderful exposure for me and the questions were very brief!

Sherene McDonald
Sherene McDonald

  • on Thu Jan 27, 2011 3:44 PM

This is a really resourceful tool.

Sherene McDonald
Sherene McDonald

  • on Sat Jan 08, 2011 10:19 PM

I throughly enjoyed viewing this to build my knowledge in PS. The interactive tools are great. May the forces be with us all!!!

Nikki T
Nikki T

  • on Sat Sep 11, 2010 11:56 AM

The section of this on fission and fusion were great review. Especially the explanation on the fusion in our sun.

Melissa  (baton rouge, la)
Melissa (baton rouge, la)

  • on Tue Nov 18, 2014 12:20 PM

The content and information provided was very useful for me as I am an intern (Student Teacher) preparing to teach many lessons in my next semester and this has helped me gain more knowledge and brush up on my content in preparation for full-time student teaching.

Chad S
Chad S

  • on Sun Jan 26, 2014 9:51 PM

Helpful information on forces and the strongest forces.

Chelsea Bender  (Denver, CO)
Chelsea Bender (Denver, CO)

  • on Fri Nov 29, 2013 2:05 PM

Although I teach 8th grade science and this goes into way more detail than I can expect my students to comprehend, I felt it allowed me to better answer the questions that they have about nuclear reactions and nuclear bombs. I always learn something new when I go through a SciPack.

Jennifer  (Pearland, TX)
Jennifer (Pearland, TX)

  • on Tue Aug 06, 2013 10:25 AM

Great resource for reviewing the topic even though it is way beyond what is requried for 6th grade!


  • on Mon Jan 30, 2012 8:32 PM

Resource provides information in a sequence that could be built further for students of higher levels. Illustrations enable better learning. Leaving more scope for further investigation directs critical thinking.

Lilly Gona
Lilly Gona

  • on Tue Jan 17, 2012 12:23 AM

I particularly enjoyed learning about quarks and how they help form the charges that make up protons and neutrons. This was the first time I'd been exposed to those concepts and it brought up questions I'd not considered.

Darrel Tanaka  (Shoreline, Washington)
Darrel Tanaka (Shoreline, Washington)

  • on Fri Jan 13, 2012 3:02 PM

This resource is decent for atomic structure. There are nice illustrations and simulations. Good for elementary or high school.

Dan Carroll  (Arlington, VA)
Dan Carroll (Arlington, VA)

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