PhysLink.com Logo

Question

Do molecules have colours? What about electrons, protons and neutrons?
Asked by: Peter

Answer

Electrons, protons and neutrons do not have a 'color' as we normally understand the term. Something has a color when light strikes it and it absorbs all but one wavelenth (say, blue) and thus the object is perceived as being blue. (This is a simplified explanation but in essence that's it.)

A light wave (in the visible part of the spectrum) has too long of a wavelength to reflect off one of these particles, so not only can we not see them, but they don't exhibit a color. (We can't even see them thru a microscope because they simply don't reflect light. That's why we need electron microscopes to see very small things--and even these can't see subatomic particles)

As for molecules: it depends on how big the molecule is. If it's a salt molecule, NaCl, that's probably too small to reflect light. But if it's DNA or a polymer, then probably it will exhibit a color, assuming you have a powerful enough optical microscope..
Answered by: Marcelo Lima, B.S.






Science Quote

'For the sake of persons of ... different types, scientific truth should be presented in different forms, and should be regarded as equally scientific, whether it appears in the robust form and the vivid coloring of a physical illustration, or in the tenuity and paleness of a symbolic expression.'

James Clerk Maxwell
(1831-1879)





All rights reserved. © Copyright '1995-'2018 PhysLink.com