element

Introduction

element, in chemistry, a substance that cannot be decomposed into simpler substances by chemical means. A substance such as a compound can be decomposed into its constituent elements by means of a chemical reaction, but no further simplification can be achieved. An element can, however, be decomposed into simpler substances, such as protons and neutrons or various combinations of them, by the methods of particle physics, e.g., by bombardment of the nucleus.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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