picture 1 Molecular version kit 'set B' by molecule Models that Cleveland, Ohio; made mid-20th century (Wh.6061).

Ball and spoke models

Ball and spoke models are a common method of representing molecular structures. Every atom is represented by a coloured ball that is joined to other atoms utilizing spokes to stand for the bonds in between them. This form of version emphasises the bonding in between atoms.

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Showing exactly how atoms bond together

Each wooden ball has a number of holes drilled right into it. These correspond with the variety of bonds the the atom can type with other atoms. The variety of bonds that deserve to be made relies on how numerous electrons one atom has, i beg your pardon varies depending on the element. Because that example, oxygen atoms can make two bonds, but hydrogen atoms have the right to only do one.

The chemist Wilhelm august Hofmann very first used coloured balls to stand for the elements around 1865. John Dalton, that in the 19th century made great advances in thinking about the framework of atoms, supplied ball and spoke models in his lectures. Some of his models and also diagrams of atoms are shown in the science Museum in London.

photo 2 collection of skeletal molecule models by Orbit (HC28).

Other "open" models: bones models

Skeletal models are comparable to the ball and also spoke kind; they are both classified as "open" structures, as opposed come the "closed" space-filling type. In skeletal models, the atoms room not presented as spheres. Rather the atoms space assumed come be at the intersection of 2 or much more rods, which represent the bonds. The main benefit of skeleton models that is basic to measure angles and also dimensions due to their open structure. The Whipple Museum has a set of Orbit skeleton models, shown in picture 2.

Space-filling models

Space-filling models offer a depiction of the size and also shape that the whole molecule, mirroring (relatively) just how much room each atom occupies. Space-filling models were very first designed by H. A. Stuart in 1934.

image 3 The Courtauld atom Model collection (Wh.5815).

Model features

Chemistry students usage space-filling models to help when visualising whether the form of specific bulky frameworks will stop them reaction with other molecules. However, space-filling models do it challenging to see just how the atoms bond together and also prevents see the framework of the entirety molecule clearly. Ball and also spoke depictions are much better for showing this information.

Space-filling models usage a measurement known as the valve der Waals radius to provide the precise size that each type of atom, based on the thickness of electrons approximately them.

Courtauld space-filling models through Griffin and also George

This collection of space-filling models in the Whipple Museum"s repertoire was made by Griffin and also George, a company that draft mass-produced models for students learning chemistry. Griffin and George"s Courtauld atomic Models collection is exceptionally well known amongst students the the period. The was occurred from the designs of Dr. G. S. Hartley of Courtaulds Ltd. In 1952 and also underwent several enhancements over the next fourteen years. The firm Griffin and also George had actually this surname only in between 1954-1957, so these sets that models deserve to be very closely dated to this time.

The models themselves room made that a strictly plastic, v a colour system that is various from the recommendations set out by the institute of Physics. Instead, the colour of these models were liked for how an excellent they would look in black and white photographs.(1) The set comes with range cards through Gallenkamp because that estimating the dimension of the molecule (20mm indistinguishable to 0.1nm).

picture 4 version of atoms packed together in an setup known together hexagonal nearby packing; 20th-century (Wh.3297).

Packing framework models

Models the represent how atoms fill together deserve to be comparable in type to the space-filling kind. Atoms have the right to be packed together in several various arrangements, and models are supplied to represent these arrangements. In the Museum"s repertoire are models that demonstrate hexagonal nearby packing and cubic nearby packing.

These details models room classified together the space-filling type because they version the atom as tough spheres that space in call with one another. Although this is no an totally realistic method to think about atoms, it provides a clear method of visualising the arrangement.

Crystal lattice models

Molecular version kits are designed to be re-used; models have the right to be built and then taken apart again, yet chemists regularly make long-term models that molecular frameworks for demonstrations or teaching. This crystallographic version of the steel beta-manganese was made by mr C. E. Chapman, chief technician the the Crystallography Department, component of the Cavendish laboratory at the college of yellowcomic.combridge, in about 1952. It shows just how the atom of manganese room arranged in ~ high temperatures.

picture 1 design of the decision lattice the beta-manganese; circa 1952. The red and green balls present atoms of manganese in different positions (Wh.5794).

The framework of crystals

A crystal lattice is a repeating sample of atoms in a solid. That is an ideal representation of how atoms room bonded together and where lock are positioned with respect come their neighbours within the solid.

This decision lattice model (Image 5) shows the distances between atoms of manganese and also their geometrical plan within the crystal structure. The black color wire cube to represent the smallest feasible cube that defines the general setup of atoms in the decision lattice. It is described in crystallography as the unit cell.

image 6 Close increase of the unit cell (the black color wire frame) in beta-manganese (Wh.5794).


In plenty of metals all of the atoms space the very same distance apart and also surrounded by 12 other atoms (much prefer the plan of stacks of oranges in supermarkets). In manganese however, for reasons not totally understood, this is no the case. In ~ room temperature several of the distances are shorter than others. This renders the setup of managese atoms in the decision lattice more complex than most other metals.

When metallic manganese is heated the crystal lattice undergoes changes in its structure prior to the metal melts. These various states are recognized as allotropes, and are named alpha, beta, gamma and also delta to differentiate them. In between temperatures of about 700 come 1100 levels centigrade, manganese exist in the beta state. As in the alpha state, no all the atoms room the very same distance apart; however further, the atom exist in two various geometrical arrangements (shown as red and green balls in pictures 5 & 6). This walk not median that they room a various kind of atom, just that their adjoining atoms space arranged differently.

Students that crystallography often discover it challenging to know the principles of different geometrical website in a decision lattice, this problem is increased in a facility crystal lattice such together beta-manganese. C. E. Chapman make this model especially to aid a college student visualise the plan of together sites. Models such as this space still offered in teaching today.


Griffin et al, "Courtauld atom models", journal of Scientfic instruments Vol. 32 (1955), 195-195.

Ruth Horry, "Ball and spoke models", check out Whipple Collections, Whipple Museum that the background of Science, college of yellowcomic.combridge, 2006.

Ruth Horry, "Space-filling models", discover Whipple Collections, Whipple Museum the the background of Science, college of yellowcomic.combridge, 2008.

James Hyslop, "Crystal lattice models", check out Whipple Collections, Whipple Museum the the history of Science, college of yellowcomic.combridge, 2008.

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