Element, Chemical (Encyclopedia of Science)
A chemical element can be defined in one of two ways: experimentally or theoretically. Experimentally, an element is any substance that cannot be broken down into any simpler substance. Imagine that you are given a piece of pure iron and asked to break it down using any device or method ever invented by chemists. Nothing you can do will ever change the iron into anything simpler. Iron, therefore, is an element.
The experimental definition of an element can be explained by using a second definition: an element is a substance in which all atoms are of the same kind. If there were a way to look at each of the individual atoms in the bar of pure iron mentioned above, they would all be the samell atoms of iron. In contrast, a chemical compound, such as iron oxide, always contains at least two different kinds of atoms, in this case, atoms of iron and atoms of oxygen.
(The entire section is 2164 words.)
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