Cotton Ball Model

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© William P. Reinhardt.

A conceptual model of the atom suggests that electrons are like fluffy balls of cotton, each repelled by the Coulomb repulsion of other electrons, but held together by the large positive charge on the small but massive nucleus at the center of the atom. This figure brings a three-dimensional reality to the flat-looking Lewis dot diagrams of earlier representations, and it is not necessarily at odds with the quantum models of the atom we will soon be discussing. The difference will be in the interpretation of the cotton balls. (Unit: 6)