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What is the difference between atoms and molecules?

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Quick Answer

Atoms and molecules both make up matter in the universe, but atoms make up molecules. In order to form molecules, atoms form bonds.

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These bonds can number in the hundreds of thousands, as in the unusual (and man-made) case of PG5, which has 170,000, or they may be singular, as in the case of a hydrogen molecule (H2). A water molecule is formed of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom, hence its molecular name of H2O.

In discussing atoms and molecules, a third commonly used term is 'element.' Elements are the kinds of atoms that exist, including hydrogen or oxygen, as displayed in the periodic table.

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