Atoms are the smallest repeating units that matter is made up of. Atoms of similar elements are similar but the atoms of two different elements will display different physical and chemical properties. The atomic structures of these atoms will also differ.
Crystals are solid materials in which the atoms (or molecules) are arranged in specific, highly-ordered structures known as crystal structures. The key differences between atomic structure and crystal structure are explained in this article.
Atomic structure refers to the arrangements of protons, electrons, and neutrons in an atom. The neutrons and protons reside in the nucleus of the atom, which is surrounded by electron clouds (regions where the probability of finding an electron is high).
Crystal structure refers to the arrangement of atoms, molecules, or ions in a crystal. Crystal structures are also known as crystal lattices. The smallest repeating unit of a crystal lattice is known as a unit cell.
The structure of atoms is quite complex since it deals with very small particles (such as electrons). On the other hand, crystal structures are relatively simple due to the well-organized arrangement of the constituents.
Atoms are primarily made up of protons, electrons, and neutrons. Two atoms can come together to share their electrons, resulting in the formation of a covalent bond. In contrast, crystals are generally made up of cations and anions (or metal cations and free electrons).
Another key difference between atomic structure and crystal structure is that the overall structure remains the same in all atoms. The same is not the case with crystals. The different crystal lattices can take different shapes (depending on their constituents).
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