Observations obtained from the experiments mentioned in the previous sections have suggested that Dalton’s indivisible atom is composed of sub-atomic particles carrying positive and negative charges. The major problems before the scientists after the discovery of sub-atomic particles were:
- to account for the stability of atom,
- to compare the behaviour of elements in terms of both physical and chemical properties,
- to explain the formation of different kinds of molecules by the combination of different atoms and,
- to understand the origin and nature of the characteristics of electromagnetic radiation absorbed or emitted by atoms.
Different atomic models were proposed to explain the distributions of these charged particles in an atom.
Although some of these models were not able to explain the stability of atoms, two of these models, one proposed by J.J. Thomson and the other proposed by Ernest Rutherford are discussed below.
Millikan’s Oil Drop Method
In this method, oil droplets in the form of mist, produced by the atomiser, were allowed to enter through a tiny hole in the upper plate of electrical condenser.
The downward motion of these droplets was viewed through the telescope, equipped with a micrometer eye piece. By measuring the rate of fall of these droplets, Millikan was able to measure the mass of oil droplets.
The air inside the chamber was ionized by passing a beam of X-rays through it. The electrical charge on these oil droplets was acquired by collisions with gaseous ions.
The fall of these charged oil droplets can be retarded, accelerated or made stationary depending upon the charge on the droplets and the polarity and strength of the voltage applied to the plate.
By carefully measuring the effects of electrical field strength on the motion of oil droplets, Millikan concluded that the magnitude of electrical charge, q, on the droplets is always an integral multiple of the electrical charge, e, that is, q = n e, where n = 1, 2, 3... .