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Many years ago I recall reading about something called a "free radical." The first time I saw that phrase I had not the slightest clue as to what it meant. Within a few more days I had read a great deal about it. Dr. Denham Harmon had only recently, then, become very famous for having "discovered" free radicals, or more accurately, for developing the "free radical concept of aging." (More on Dr. Harman here.)
You can view a version of this article as a Power Point Slide Show, by clicking here for more information and actually starting the show.
After that initial study I thought I knew what one of these things was.
A free radical, I thought, was simply an atom that had an odd number of electrons in its outer ring. That is correct, but it omits some useful data. There is an excellent and detailed explanation of free radicals on one of my webs -- click here. This explanation also includes more data abut Dr. Harman. Connected to that web page are two more about free radicals. ONE of these has 100 scientific studies about free radicals, and THE OTHER one describes a machine that produces negatively charged water.
The more complete answer is that a free radical is any atom or molecule with an "unpaired electron" in the outer ring. An "unpaired electron" will also always mean there is an odd number since "pairing" of electrons goes by "twos." However, that term, "unpaired electron," needs more explanation -- so continue reading.
Basic Principle Of The Physical Universe
It seems that a basic principle of the physical universe is natural pairing. You could even take this to the fact that we have two sexes -- each needing the other for mutual survival, through their progeny, on into the future. At the other end of things, electrons don't seem to like to exist without a mate! You see couples dancing -- it is the norm!
I then started to run into examples where that definition didn't seem to fit. That caused confusion over some years. I had another curve-ball thrown at me a bit later with another complexity that I didn't understand. As it has turned out, my early understanding was correct, although not complete. So, the article I've referenced above is still quite valid.
I resolved that "some day" I would really get serious about these things, do the study needed for me to understand them, and then write something that others could understand. The above article is quite adequate, but not as simple or complete as I wanted to have, so this page, this article, is this new presentation.
Long before I truly understood this term (free radical) I was using it with "casual disregard" of total understanding. I've written many places about free radicals causing heart disease -- by damaging parts of the individual cells in the arteries.
But, I knew that I still hadn't grasped this term sufficiently -- so here it is.
First, my overly simple understanding was like this. The large picture here on the left is of an atom of helium. Helium has two protons in the center of the atom, and has two electrons circling around that center. (There are also two neutrons in the center, along with the protons.) This is the same helium used to fill balloons at your fairs and carnivals.
You might say that the two electrons are moving in a "shell" around the center. They don't necessarily always follow the same "orbit," but they do stay in the same shell.
Protons have positive electrical charge. They are shown in the picture in pale green with a + mark in the center -- with the "p" label.
Electrons have negative electrical charge. They are shown here as the blue balls, with a " - " in their centers, and with a "tail" implying that the electrons are moving around the central mass.
Neutrons have no electrical charge. The word is related to "neutral."
The electrical charge does not affect whether an atom is a free radical or not, but it is important to understand when you want to figure out what keeps those electrons moving around the center nucleus.
This was, for me, basic high school physics and I was comfortable with this.
You could say that this atom is "balanced." In fact, helium is one of the most stable of elements. It is "inert." It won't react with anything else and won't explode or catch on fire. For a while I thought it was "balanced" because the electrical charge of the protons equaled the electrical charge of the electrons. You have 2 positive protons and 2 negative electrons.
I discovered, however, that the lack of stability had more to do with whether or not there was one of those pesky electrons without a mate -- looking to wander off and join some other atom, or to grab another electron from somewhere and get paired up!
You could contrast helium with hydrogen -- the lightest of the elements. Hydrogen is said to be very reactive. If you mix some hydrogen with oxygen, you can get supposedly a loud explosion. That is what supposedly happened with the dirigible, the Hindenburg that was filled with hydrogen. Dirigibles are now always filled only with helium. No explosions. The picture on the right was taken just a few seconds after the explosion of the Hindenburg -- many people died, and, of course, that was the end of hydrogen as a gas for dirigibles.
It has been brought to my attention that the disaster of the Hindenburg was NOT the explosion of hydrogen, but rather the material used for the skin of the dirigible.
The memory of the spectacular destruction of the Hindenburg airship affects people’s perception of hydrogen and their acceptance of the gas as an energy source. The lighter-than-air craft burst into flame—in full view of a crowd of reporters and newsreel cameras—while landing in Lakehurst, New Jersey, U.S.A., on 6 May 1937. Hydrogen has long taken the blame for the disaster, which effectively ended travel by zeppelin.
But retired NASA [National Aeronautics and Space Administration] engineer and long-time hydrogen advocate Addison Bain, who has been conducting extensive research on the incident, concludes that hydrogen played no part in starting the Hindenburg fire. To learn what really happened 60 years ago, Bain used NASA’s latest investigative techniques to analyze original wreckage from the Hindenburg; conducted interviews with the few remaining survivors and those who have detailed knowledge of the Hindenburg’s construction; examined original film footage and other documentary evidence; and visited the airship’s former mooring sites in Lakehurst and Akron, Ohio, U.S.A. The dramatic findings of his research were reported at the National Hydrogen Association’s 8th Annual U.S. Hydrogen Meeting and are the subject of the cover story of the May 1997 issue of the Smithsonian Institution’s Air and Space magazine, published in observance of the incident’s 60th anniversary. (Bain also plans to publish a complete manuscript with all data as well as two books for the general public and young adults.) (source)
The data in the above paragraphs is persuasive for me. I conclude that I had been wrong and accepted a widely believed fallacy -- Karl Loren. The remainder about hydrogen is, however, still factual.
The entire physical universe seems to be made up of hydrogen -- there is more hydrogen in our physical universe than all other elements combined. The sun is one vast hydrogen ball, exploding, burning -- and there is no need for oxygen at the levels of temperature of the sun.
Hydrogen has only one electron, thus it is, by definition, an "unpaired" electron, and thus the normal form of hydrogen is a free radical. It is possible to add one electron to the atom of hydrogen, making it no longer a free radical. This type of hydrogen is described HERE.
The element Hydrogen is the simplest and most abundant element in the universe. The most common form consists of only one proton and one electron. It has an electron configuration of 1s1 in its ground state.
Hydrogen has two other known isotopes, or structural forms. Deuterium has one proton and one neutron in its nucleus. Tritium has one proton and two neutrons in its nucleus. Both these isotopes have identical chemical properties to Hydrogen. They differ in that they have higher atomic masses and are radioactive. The radioactivity is due to the instability of the larger nuclei of these isotopes. When the nucleus breaks apart energy is released and radiates out from the atom.
Here is a graphic image of the hydrogen atom, except that the hydrogen atom does NOT have a NEUTRON. It is the only atom that does not contain neutrons. The image was not intended to show the hydrogen atom, but a simplistic form of "an" atom.
Going back to the helium picture above, where the atom has TWO electrons circling around the center, if ONE of those electrons "goes away" you would have something like the drawing on the right. You see the same number of protons, the same number of neutrons, but only ONE electron.
That electron no longer has a mate!
This image portrays a free radical. It does have an odd number of electrons (one) in the outer ring (the only ring). The status here can also be described as an "unpaired electron" since there is only one electron. (It is very difficult to take one electron away from helium -- that is why it is considered so stable.)
Another word to understand in this situation is "ion." An "ion" is an atom with some "net electrical charge" -- an atom with either a plus charge or a minus electrical charge.
In this last picture you see that the protons, with positive electrical charge, are two in number while the electron, with negative electrical charge, is a single item. So, in this atom, now, there is more positive electrical charge than negative electrical charge -- therefore we say that THIS atom is, itself, positively charged.
Because it is positively charged it attracts any available electron, with its negative charge. Opposites attract.
So, that philosophical truth? The physical universe is based on PAIRS, but the pairs are made up of different sexes, or different electrical charges, or whatever it is that is different between the two items in the pair! Opposites attract!
The helium atom with two protons and two electrons (picture further up)? That one is neutral. It is electrically stable. The positive and the negative electrical charges balance one another, so there is a net neutrality. There is no "unused" electrical charge from the protons to attract another electron. It would be hard to ADD one extra electron to this atom. Take the atom of helium, for example, with two electrons in its ring. If you tried to somehow add one electron, it just wouldn't stick -- it wouldn't get into the orbit around the center and stay there.
As I said above, electrons travel in a "shell." It turns out that there are several shells -- very standard -- for the various atoms. So, the first shell, for ANY atom, always has a maximum of two electrons in it. The next shell can contain up to eight electrons. Some authors talk of the third shell containing as many as 18 electrons, and the fourth shell containing as many as 32 electrons. Other authors say that all other shells can contain only up to eight electrons each. Usually each shell must be filled up before electrons can start into a new shell. If there an "inner shell" with a gap in it, typically that gap is filled by one of the electrons in an outer shell falling back down into the gap.
Each shell has a designated letter, so the first shell is called the "s" shell. Hydrogen and helium, for instance, only have one shell. For hydrogen the shell has one electron and for helium the shell has two electrons. (The next atom, Lithium, has three electrons and the third electron doesn't fit on that first shell -- so Lithium has TWO shells of electrons around it -- with two electrons in the first shell and one electron in the second shell.)
(Incidentally, yes, this is the same lithium used to make batteries, and you might understand now why the battery people tell you that you must be careful when you discard batteries -- which generally have free radical material in them.)
Here are the letters for the first four shells. Note that some scientists describe the "d" shell as having a maximum of 18 electrons and the "f" shell as having as many as 32. I am not going to try to settle this complex question for this "primer."
(Actually, the word "orbit" is not very accurate. In the very early days atomic models had the electrons in neat rings, following set paths of motion, and arranged at differing distances from the center of the atom. Modern physics has discarded this old view -- so now we consider that the electrons can move on any path, but within their proper "shell.")
Electrons exist in specific "shells" around the center. Each shell, regardless of the atom, can have only some specific maximum number of electrons in it. When that number, for the final shell, is up to the standard for that shell, that atom is very stable. There can be TWO electrons in the first shell, for instance. Hydrogen, with only one electron, doesn't fill up the first shell, and is reactive. Helium with two electrons, completely fills up the first shell -- making helium a very stable atom.
Hydrogen is a free radical in its normal state, helium is not!
The next element in the periodic table of elements is the metal called Lithium. Lithium is actually a metal, about half the density of water.
If you would like to get into a fascinating animated model of the periodic table of elements, click this button. In this periodic table you can see moving atoms, and select any of many different atoms to see them in motion. It takes a while to load this application and you will be leaving this web site to use this application. It will open in a new, separate window. When you are done with that window, simply close it and you will be back here.
The atom of Lithium has THREE electrons and THREE protons -- it is neutral in charge, as all atoms are if they have not lost any electrons, but you can see that it has an odd number of electrons. Two of these electrons are in an "inner shell" around the center. The third electron is in the next shell further out. Even though it has an ODD number of electrons, these are perfectly balanced with the three protons in the center, so this atom is NOT an ion. But it is still a free radical because there is an unpaired electron in the outer shell. There is also an odd number of electrons in the outer shell. (Shells are explained further HERE.)
Hydrogen, Lithium, Sodium and Potassium all have a single electron in their outer shells. Hydrogen is a special element with many unique properties. Lithium, Sodium and Potasium, however, are highly reactive metals. They are all so reactive that they react with water! It is that single outer electron that makes these atoms reactive. (source)
Fluorine and Chlorine have seven electrons in their outer shell. Both are highly reactive gases not found as elements in the natural state and forming crystaline salt-like compounds with metals. These elements are one electron short of a complete outer shell. This makes them reactive. (source)
Because there is only one electron in the outer shell, Lithium is highly reactive. It must be stored under liquid paraffin or gasoline to prevent it reacting with oxygen.
Fluorine has an "unpaired electron" in its outer shell, Like all atoms, it has the first shell that can contain TWO electrons. It has those. The next shell, all further shells, can hold up to EIGHT electrons. In the case of Fluorine, after the first two electrons are taken care of, on the first ring, there are 7 more electrons to put somewhere. They will all fit into the second shell.
But, since there are seven electrons, six of them would be matched into three pairs, leaving the final electron the "odd man out." Remember this philosophical comment: The physical universe seems to work best in pairs!
It's like seven people went to a dance. Six of them went as couples. The seventh person had to look for a partner! He certainly could cause mischief, could he not!! What happens when there is ONE guy and two girls?? Is there some other guy who has lost his girl? Are the two girls going to be happy sharing one guy?
If the atom, like helium, started out with an even number of electrons, balanced by the exact same number of protons, and you took away one electron, sure enough, you would have a free radical (because of the unpaired electron) and you would have an ion (because the number of electrons did not equal the number of protons.
So, Lithium IS a free radical, but not an ion -- its natural state is three electrons and three protons. So, it is not an ion.
But, its natural state is to have an unpaired electron, therefore it is a free radical.
You could have an element, like Fluorine, that has a total of NINE electrons. Since it has an unpaired electron, it is a free radical. Since its natural state includes nine electrons and nine protons, it is NOT an ion. That second shell, for fluorine, has SEVEN electrons in it. (Two electrons on the first shell and 7 electrons on the second shell.) If it managed to grab an electron from somewhere, the atom of Fluorine would no longer be a free radical, but it would then have a negative electrical charge.
Electrons that are "lost" from some atom can actually float through space -- and exist for years. But, if they come close to some atom, in space or in your house, they usually get stuck to the atom. Click here for more on those "loose electrons, wandering through space, looking for something to do!" They come together to create the spectacular Northern Lights that are so visible in the northern regions.
When an atom is in the free radical form, because of the unpaired electron, it is unbalanced and can very easily attract and accept a stray electron from anywhere. Or, it can give up an electron so that there are no unpaired electrons remaining.
Let's go back to lithium, an atom with three electrons.
atom LOSES one of its electrons it is still
"lithium" but now has a net positive charge.
Because it no longer has an unpaired
electron, it is no longer a free radical.
That atom is now referred to as "Li+1." This refers to Lithium with a positive charge of one.
3e -3 3p +3 CHARGE = 0 Lithium (Li)
2e -2 3p +3 CHARGE =+1 Lithium (Li+1)
The lithium atom HAD been a free radical (because of the unpaired electron), but it had NOT been an ion (because it had no charge). When it loses one electron it becomes an ion but is no longer a free radical.
When Lithium picks up one electron the atom reverts to its status of being a free radical, but loses its charge and is no longer an ion. Interestingly, electrons don't have characteristics depending on what atom them may have started out with. One electron is just as good as any other electron when it comes to balancing up a atom with a missing electron.
An electron that just escaped from a pigs left nostril can nicely satisfy the electron needs of a molecule in the lipstick used by Mary!
An electron "floating around in space" has it inherent negative charge, but since there is no proton connected to it, it is not a free radical. ONLY the original atom, with a missing electron, can be a free radical. The original atom, with the missing electron, is looking to grab some electron from somewhere. It could find one floating in the air, or it might steal one from some other atom.
So, say you start, somehow, with a lithium atom that has lost one of its electrons. The electron is wondering off somewhere, but what is left is the atom with three protons and only two electrons. This atom is a mischief-maker. It wants to grab an electron from somewhere. This atom has a positive charge, so there is an electrical attracting between its positive charge and anything coming along with a negative charge. But, not only it just accept some new electron from the air, but it can steal one from another atom that might be a bit careless about hanging onto its electrons.
There is one more commonly used word I might as well mention here -- valence.
The outer shell of an atom is known as the valence shell. Any electrons located in the outer shell of an atom are known as valence electrons. The valence shell of an atom cannot hold more than eight electrons. It is the valence electrons that are primary concern in the study of electricity, because it is these that explain much of electrical theory. A conductor for instance, is generally made from a material that contains one or two valence electrons. Atoms with one or two valence electrons are unstable and can be made to give up these electrons with little effort. Conductors are materials that permit electrons to flow through them easily. When an atom has only one or two valence electrons, these electrons are loosely held by the atom and are easily given up for the current flow. Silver, copper, gold, and aluminum all contain one valence electron and are excellent conductors of electricity. Silver is the best natural conductor of electricity, followed by copper, gold, and aluminum. (source)
In summary, then, you should be comfortable with understanding what a free radical is. It is an atom with an unpaired electron in the outer ring.
Does a free radical always have to be just one atom? No!
So, let's explore what else can BE a free radical besides a single atom.
How Atoms Stay Internally Connected
If atoms could never connect up with one another, the world would be a dull place. The most plentiful material on the planet is water -- made up of two different atoms -- oxygen and hydrogen. Perhaps air is more common? But, air is made up of many different substances, depending on where it is, so we are definitely going to want to know how one atom connects with another and use water as an example.
But first, I suspect it is important to look at the "hook up" forces INSIDE one atom -- before we look at the "hook up" forces among atoms!
Here are the questions I've asked myself, and I expect to answer in this Section.
Is there an
attractive force that makes "pairs" of
electrons somehow dependent on one another so
that a single electron (unpaired) has some
less such attractive force? Where would
that attractive force be "aimed at?"
For instance, does a "pair" of electrons have
an attraction for one another that neither of
them has for the electrons in "other pairs?"
What type of "force" does it take for some "hungry" free radical to "steal" an electron from an otherwise "happy" atom? In other words, here comes an atom, hungry for an electron. Presumably that "hunger" is measured by the attractive force emanating from the protons? The atom from which an electron is going to be taken? Presumably that atom is also hanging onto its electrons? So, the question is, how can you compare the different forces tugging on this electron?
What is the attractive force that keeps the electrons close to the atom?
You know about gravity and magnets. You may not be able to give a physics lecture on these two different types of force, but you can use the words in ordinary conversation. As soon as you think about magnets, you realize that "opposite poles" attract, and similar poles on a magnet repel. So, when you place two magnets such that their north poles are facing each other, their is a "force" that pushes them apart. Whereas, when you put the north pole facing the south pole of a magnet, you know that their is a force that tends to pull the magnets toward each other.
Gravity, too, you "know about," and figure that an apple FALLS from the tree to the ground. You might wonder why the moon doesn't fall toward the earth?
understand electric fields and electromagnetic waves,
you need to know how charges (such as
protons ) cause each
other to move.
Click the mouse anywhere in the box. You created
an electron! It's a particle with negative charge
and not much mass.
Yeah, but it just got sucked into the positive charge and swallowed.
|That's because the positive charge exerts an invisible, attractive force on the electron -- an electric force. Try putting the electron in different places. How long can you keep it alive?||If I put one near the edge of the box, it gets sucked in a lot slower.|
Yes -- the electric force is like an invisible spring, but as the charges move farther apart, a weaker spring pulls them together.
Now see what happens when you give the electron a
little "throw" as you set it down. To do this,
click-drag the mouse in any direction. The line shows
the direction of the throw and its length shows the
I start it off just right, the electron keeps looping
around the proton and never crashes into it. It
would be quite a trick to make the electron rotate
around the nucleus. See if you can give the electron
JUST the right amount of push and direction to "put
it into orbit" around the nucleus?? I've
did that?? you've
just created an early model of an
this mean that the electric force is somehow
different when the electron starts with a velocity?
No, the force, or pull, depends only on where you put it, not on the velocity. But an electron's motion depends on both the force on the electron and its velocity, which are often in different directions. See what happens when you first click on the button "show force," and then put an electron down with a velocity in a different direction.
If you try different forces you can "flip" the
electron out of the box -- it will move toward the
edge and disappear in the void! But, if you
give it JUST THE RIGHT amount of force and direction
it will pop right into orbit and keep on moving
around the center!
Source Of Cartoon Model
So, we know that things fall when there is some sort of force attracting them -- like gravity or a force like magnets with positive and negative electricity. But, we also know that these electrons do NOT fall toward the center. Why?
The moon, for instance, does NOT fall toward the earth. Instead of simply falling into the earth, the moon has ANOTHER type of force, called centrifugal force that keeps the moon moving around the earth, rather than falling into it. In a similar way the earth moves around the sun.
For a while scientists thought that these three types of force could explain how an electron stays moving around the center of the atom. The opposite charge between the proton and the electron attracts and the electron would normally move directly toward the proton. But, the electron is spinning so centrifugal force enters into this.
Here is a common technical description of this:
The law of charges states that opposite charges attract and like charges repel. For example, two objects that contain opposite charge are attracted to each other. The two positively charged objects and two negatively charged units repel each other. [Some excellent material is omitted here because it is very technical -- click on the source to read the entire paragraph.]
Because the nucleus of an atom is formed from the combination of protons and neutrons, one might ask why the protons of the nucleus do not repel each other since they all have the same charge. Two theories attempt to explain this. The first asserts that the force of gravity holds the protons and neutron together. Neutrons, like protons, are extremely massive particles. Their combined mass produces, the gravitational force necessary to overcome the repelling force of the positive charges. The second explanation [is omitted here but you can read it on the source link here]. (Source)
The law of centrifugal force is the second law of physics. It states that a spinning object will pull away from its center point and that the faster it spins, the greater the centrifugal force becomes. An example of this would be to tie an object to a string and spin it around, it will try to pull away from you. The faster the object spins, the greater the force that tries to pull the object away. Centrifugal force prevents the electron from falling into the nucleus of the atom. The faster an electron spins, the farther away from the nucleus it will be. (Source)
If you were very clever you could have put JUST ENOUGH force, in JUST THE RIGHT direction, on that electron to put it into orbit. When you do that you have created centrifugal force to keep the electron in orbit. It doesn't fall into the center because of centrifugal force, and it doesn't fly away because of the attraction from the protons in the center.
This last paragraph touches on the issue of the "shells." Since electrons are in shells around the nucleus, the shell which is furthest out from the center must contain electrons that are traveling slower than the inner electrons. Electrons travel a little less than 1% of the speed of light -- so it is interesting to think of different speeds for different electrons, all of them being close to 1% of the speed of light! Another thing about these electrons in the outer shell -- they would be the furthest from the center and the attractive force would be weaker than for the inner electrons. So, one could guess that these outer electrons could easily "wander off." In fact, that is what happens, and that is how and when a free radical is created.
If you have followed all this you now have a basic understanding of the atom -- of how the electrons move around the nucleus and why the electrons stay in that position.
You are getting a deliberately simplified view of these matters. There are complexities beyond what I've written on this page. Many of those complexities are explored on the linked pages, and in other pages linked to those. Remember, this is a "Primer" not an "Advanced Text."
If you would like a glimpse of an "advanced concept," click here for the animated model shown here.
So that's it? Atoms really look like little
solar systems with electrons making quantum jumps
between special orbits?
quite. The idea of an electron actually flying around
in little circles turned out to have lots of
problems, and physicists were eventually forced to
discard that model.
In this context the "forces" that keep the moon from wandering off, or falling to the earth, ARE DIFFERENT from the forces involved with electrons and protons. Years ago physicists thought it was the same type of force for both, but within the complexities not presented on THIS page, there is a different explanation. Electrons don't quite move the way I've explained it on this page. THIS simplified explanation is, however, quite adequate for this Primer, and for understanding the role of free radicals in creating disease.
What Makes Electrons So Special In Pairs?
One of the questions I asked myself as I started this research was, "What is the reason 'paired electrons' are different from "un-paired electrons?" Remember that a free radical is only an atom that has an "unpaired electron." The answer is complicated. I've written about the "shells" in which the electrons move? Yes! But, it turns out that inside these shells are "sub-shells!" In each sub-shell there can be only two electrons. It turns out that electrons not only rotate around the center, as the earth goes around the sun, but each electron also SPINS as the earth spins on its axis. In one sub-shell the two electrons have an opposite spin from one another. These "spins" are referred to as "spin UP" and "spin DOWN." Click here for the very full details on this.
This opposite spin creates a magnetic attraction between the two electrons. This attraction keeps that pair stuck together -- they are held in their place in a "shell" by the power of the force waves from the protons. They are held in place (kept from dropping down to the center) by the centrifugal force of the orbit around the nucleus, and they are held together by the mutual magnetic attraction to one another. Thus, you begin to see that a free radical lacks the stabilizing influence of a partner electron for one of its electrons. If any electron is going to be removed from an atom, then, it would be the one lacking in this third type of force -- the magnetic attraction between two electrons spinning on their axes in different directions.
Two "paired" electrons have equal and opposite magnetic force -- while they attract one another, they are NOT attracted by an external magnetic influence. Thus if a stray electron comes along, spinning away, creating its own magnetic field, it can easily attract another stray electron spinning in the opposite direction. But, if the stray electron comes close to two paired electrons, there is no magnetic attraction there.
Unpaired electrons, then, can easily be attracted to other unpaired electrons with an opposite spin -- forming a new electron pair.
Helium Is The Most Stable Atom
The question asked above was whether the Helium atom would be the most resistant to the removal of an electron? They answer is yes. The force pulling the electrons into the center is greater for electrons closer to the center. The fact that Helium has only two electrons and that it takes only two to fill up the first shell -- and other factors -- make Helium the most stable atom -- another word would be "inert."
Here is a quote: The energy required to remove one of them is the highest ionization energy of any atom in the periodic table: 24.6 electron volts. Source
How Does A Free Radical Steal An Electron From Some Other Atom?
With the amount of information you have learned so far, you can see that an atom with all paired electrons could lose one of those electrons only if the force pulling it away were greater than the forces keeping it in its position. Each of the paired electrons would have the electrical force from the proton, pulling the electron toward the proton. Each of the paired electrons would have the attractive force between them -- holding them in place. These two forces would tend to prevent a single electron from leaving its orbit and leaving the atom.
But, if the external force were greater than these two internal forces, then one electron could be torn from its pair, and from its proton, leave the atom, and take up a position in a new atom. The atom that had just lost this electron would be changed into a free radical.
What type of force is necessary to pull an electron away from an atom?
This question is answered further along because you need to understand how atoms combine into molecules before you can get the full picture of how a free radical is created.
Let's say that you just put a blowtorch on a piece of metal -- all the atoms in that metal are getting heated up. How do they change, if they do change? Do, the electrons move faster? No. What happens is the shells containing the electrons move further out from the center. When a shell is further out the electrons in that shell move more slowly. It takes ENERGY to move a shell (with its electrons) further away from the center. After all, the protons in the center are pulling on the electrons. The electrons won't change their position unless "something happens."
The further out these shells are the less power has the force of the protons, and the easier it would be for this atom to lose electrons. After all, if you heat some solid material to a high enough temperature, it becomes a liquid, then a gas.
Here is an animated model that will help:
This is an animated model of the hydrogen atom, with one electron moving around the center. As you first see the electron, it is "in close" to the center, and moving rapidly. Take your mouse pointer and click somewhere in the image -- in one of the "shells" further out from the center. Your click has simulated the addition of energy to this atom -- causing the electron shell to move further away from the center. This is how an atom "stores" energy. The energy (from your mouse click) has caused the electron to move away from the force pulling it into the center. It now moves more slowly.
This atom will now "give up" its newly accumulated energy. The electron shell will gradually "degrade" or move down to a lower position. As this happens the atom is giving up energy -- the opposite of where, before, it was absorbing energy. There is an excellent further explanation of this HERE, along with the same animated model. When an atom gives up energy it is in the form of radiation.
Is It TRUE that Any Electron Can Substitute For Any Other Electron?
• an atom, radical, or molecule that has gained or lost one or more electrons and thus acquired a net negative or positive charge. In electrolysis, positive ions (cations) travel to the cathode, while negative ions (anions) travel to the anode. (Coined by Michael Faraday, from a Greek form meaning “going.”)
Zinc, described above, is normally an atom with 32 electrons. Two of those electrons are in the outer shell, so it is relatively easy for them to "depart."
When they do that, they have left behind an atom with 32 protons and 30 electrons.
Thus, this atom has a net positive charge of "two." It would be written as "Zinc 2+." It would then called an "ionic form" of zinc.
It turns out that ionic zinc is very nearly at the start of every beginning of cancer. Thus, this theoretical stuff about ions takes a very serious place in health care.
If you can remove the ionic form of zinc from certain tissues, then those tissues to not promote the creation or growth of cancer. My oral chelation formula removes this type of zinc. Thus, there is a whole approach to preventing cancer with my oral chelation formula -- explained HERE.
Karl Note: This page is not yet complete!
Chemical Bonding -- Atoms, Electron Shells, Valency, Electrovalent, Ions & Covalent -- Explained
The Negative Hydrogen Ion
Cartoon Model -- The Spin Of Electrons -- Key To Understanding "Paired Electrons"
Helium Energy Levels
Iron and Aluminum Homeostasis in Neural Disorders
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