Difference between Electron and Proton

Atom is the basic building block of all the elements existing in nature which means every substance is made up of atoms. An Atom is made up of fundamental particles like electrons, protons, and neutrons. Every Atom consists of two parts: the nucleus which lies in the centre of the atom and the region surrounding the nucleus which contains certain orbits. In this article, we will see the difference between electron and proton.

Proton resides in the nucleus of the atom while electrons revolve around the fixed orbits known as shells. Electrons are negatively charged species while protons are positively charged entities.

Protons and neutrons are attracted towards each other by nuclear force while there is an electromagnetic force of attraction between the proton and the electron. In addition to this nuclear force of attraction, there is also a force of repulsion between the two protons since they carry the same charge, but the force of attraction is much greater than the force of repulsion.

Electron vs Proton

Here is a brief comparison between the two (electron and proton).

Electron Proton
It is a Negatively charged entity. It is a Positively charged entity.
It was discovered by J.J. Thomson. It was first observed by Eugen Goldstein but named by Ernest Rutherford.
It revolves in fixed orbits around the nucleus. It is found inside the nucleus of an atom.
It requires less amount of energy to be removed from the atom. It requires a lot of energy to be removed from the atom.
It is represented by the symbol “e”. It is represented by the symbol “p”.
The mass of an electron is 9.1 × 10-31 Kg. The mass of a proton is 1.67 × 10-27 Kg.
It can be easily added or removed from the atom. It is hard to be added or removed from the atom.
It is highly mobile. It is not mobile since they are present inside the nucleus.
When an external electric field is applied it gets attracted to the positive plate. When an external electric field is applied it gets attracted to the negative plate.

What is Electron?

It is a subatomic particle of an atom bearing a negative charge. The credit for the discovery of an electron goes to British Physicist JJ Thomson. They revolve around the nucleus in fixed circular paths/orbits known as shells. These shells have certain fixed energy. When an electron receives the energy from the surrounding it moves from a shell (orbit) of lower energy to an orbit of higher energy. And when it loses energy it falls into an orbit of lower energy. Since the electrons are highly mobile, they are major contributors to the flow of electric current in conductors. An electron has a charge of -1.6 × 10-19 C.

All the electrons of an atom are identical. Since the electrons are negatively charged, they are deflected towards the positive plate when an external electric field is applied across them. The mass of an electron is 9.11 × 10-31 Kg which is much smaller than the mass of protons, therefore they do not contribute much to the overall atomic mass of an element.

What is Proton?

These are positively charged particles found inside the nucleus of an atom. Protons together with neutrons form a prominent part of the nucleus. As protons and neutrons, both lie inside the nucleus of an atom, they are major contributors to the mass of the nucleus. Proton and neutron are together called “nucleon”. The number of protons present in the nucleus signifies its Atomic number. Since the electrons and protons carry an opposite charge, there is a force of attraction between the two therefore, electrons are bound to the nucleus of the atom. It is due to this force of attraction that electrons move in fixed circular orbits.

Electrons and protons possess the same magnitude of equal and opposite charge, therefore an atom is electrically neutral. The protons are immobile, as they are strongly bound to the nucleus of the atom. The charge on a proton is +1.6 × 10-19 C. The mass of a proton is 1.672 × 10-27 Kg which is more than the mass of the electron.

Protons are deflected towards the negative plate in the presence of an external electric field as they carry a negative charge. It is the number of protons that define the property of an element.

In nuclear processes, there is an involvement of protons and neutrons. There are two nuclear processes: nuclear fusion and nuclear fission. In nuclear fusion, the nuclei of two lighter atoms are combined to form a heavy nucleus. A lot of energy is released within the process of fusion.

Nuclear fission can be defined as the process in which a heavy nucleus splits into two lighter nuclei. In this process also a lot of energy is released. The process of nuclear fission is used in the generation of electricity through nuclear power plants. Nuclear fission is also used in nuclear bombs. Nuclear fusion is used in hydrogen bombs.

Deepak Yadav
Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh


1. https://chem.libretexts.org/Bookshelves/Introductory_Chemistry/Map%3A_Introductory_Chemistry_(Tro)/04%3A_Atoms_and_Elements/4.04%3A_The_Properties_of_Protons_Neutrons_and_Electrons
2. https://circuitglobe.com/difference-between-electron-and-proton.html#Definition

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