We know that all matter contains atoms, and those atoms contain protons, neutrons, and electrons. But atoms aren’t all the same. They have different amounts of protons, neutrons, and electrons. Scientists have discovered about 120 different types of atoms – or elements. These elements are the building blocks for everything in the universe

Fun Facts

  • Elements are the same throughout the universe. Meteors contain the same element, iron, that is found in the soil here on Earth.
  • Your body contains about 40 different elements, but it’s mostly made of hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, calcium, carbon, and nitrogen.
  • Understanding elements is a little like reading a recipe. Oxygen has eight neutrons, protons, and electrons. Hydrogen has seven. Each element has its own formula and rules.


Element: type of atom

Neutron: a particle found in an atom that doesn’t have an electric charge

Proton: a positively charged particle found in atoms

Electron: a negatively charged particle found in atoms

Q and A

Question: How many elements are there?

Answer: Scientists have discovered (or made) about 120 elements. There may be more to find.

Question: What happens when elements mix?

Answer: New substances are created when elements mix. For example, hydrogen and oxygen make water.

Learn More

Visit Khan Academy to watch a video about atoms and elements.
Head over to Jefferson Lab for more information on atoms and elements.