Difference Between Proton and Electron

Proton vs Electron

Atoms are the small building blocks of all existing substances. They are so tiny that we can’t even observe with our naked eye. Normally atoms are in the Angstrom range. After a lot of experiments, the atomic structure was described during the 19th century. Atom is made up of a nucleus, which has protons and neutrons. Other than neutrons and positrons there are other small sub atomic particles in the nucleus. And there are electrons circling around the nucleus in orbitals. Most of the space in an atom is empty. The attractive forces between the positive charged nucleus (positive charge due to protons) and the negatively charged electrons maintain the atom’s shape. Both protons and neutrons are nucleons. They are located together in the nuclei of atoms bound by the nuclei force.


Proton is the sub atomic particle in the atoms’ nucleus and has a positive charge. Proton is generally denoted as p. When electron was discovered, scientists had no idea about a particle called proton. Goldstein discovered a positively charged particle that was produced from gases. These were known as anode rays. Unlike electrons, these had different charge to mass ratios depending on the gas used. After various experiments by many scientists, finally Rutherford discovered the proton in 1917.

Number of protons is important to indicate the atomic number, because for an element, atomic number is equal to the number of protons it has in the nucleus. For example, atomic number of sodium is 11; therefore, sodium has eleven electrons in the nucleus. Proton has a +1 charge, and its mass is 1.6726×10−27 kg. Proton is said to be made up of three quarks, two up quarks and one down quark. It is considered as a stable particle, because its decaying lifetime is very long. The simplest element, hydrogen has only one proton. When the hydrogen atom releases its electron, it forms a H+ ion, which has a proton. Therefore, in chemistry, the term “proton” is used to call the H+ ion. H+ is important in acid base reaction and, this is an extremely reactive species. There is more than one proton in all the other elements except hydrogen. Usually in neutral atoms, the number of negatively charged electrons and the number of positively charged protons are similar.


Electron is shown by the symbol e and has a negative (-1) electrical charge. Electron has a mass of 9.1093×10−31 kg, which makes it the lightest sub atomic particle. Electron was discovered by J.J. Thompson in 1897, and the name was given by Stoney. Discovery of the electron was a turning point in sciences as it led to explanation of electricity, chemical bonding, magnetic properties, thermal conductivity, spectroscopy and so many other phenomena. Electrons reside in orbitals in atoms and they have opposite spins.


What is the difference between Proton and Electron?

• Proton is the sub atomic particle found in a nucleus of an atom, whereas electrons are orbiting around the nucleus.

• Protons have a positive charge, and electrons are negatively charged.

• Electrons’ mass is 1/1836 of the mass of a proton.

• Electrons can be easily removed or gained by atoms whereas protons are not.

• Electron was discovered before the proton.