Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory Office of Science NEWTON's Homepage NEWTON's Homepage
NEWTON, Ask A Scientist!
NEWTON Home Page NEWTON Teachers Visit Our Archives Ask A Question How To Ask A Question Question of the Week Our Expert Scientists Volunteer at NEWTON! Frequently Asked Questions Referencing NEWTON About NEWTON About Ask A Scientist Education At Argonne Matter Force
Name: Robin
Status: other
Age: 30s
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: 2000-2001

What is the force that makes atoms/molecules collect into solid matter? What force brings all the atoms/molecules together to make up a persons eye, say?

Robin, The force that HOLDS atoms and molecules together is electromagnetic(mostly electric, but magnetic does plays a part). The negatively charged electrons and positively charged atomic nuclei interact through the electromagnetic force to stick together. There is more to it than "Coulomb's Law". Electromagnetic force on the scale of atoms is more complex than on the scale of charged balls. To discuss all details requires quantum physics. Still, it is the electromagnetic force. Some atoms hold together very tightly, forming solids. Less tight electromagnetic bonds result in liquid or gas.

As for what BRINGS the atoms together, there are a variety of possibilities. In a biological situation, it is very often the work of proteins. These are biological "workhorses" that have individual tasks for which they are created. It may be to place a certain atom in the wall of a cell. It may be to bend one molecule into another shape, allowing it to become a different molecule. Often digestion plays a role. You drink a glass of milk. A calcium atom is digested. Proteins then place the atom in your bone to heal a broken arm.

When you get to the level of outer space, the driving force is gravity. A meteor is pulled to a planet by gravity. The meteor burns up passing through the atmosphere. The atoms that were part of the meteor are now part of the planet. There are many ways to bring atoms together, but they all use electromagnetic force to stay together as molecules.

Dr. Ken Mellendorf
Illinois Central College

depending on the material, there are a few different forces that hold molecules together. There's metallic bonding, ionic, covelant, hydrolic, Van de Wall, etc.


Click here to return to the Physics Archives

NEWTON is an electronic community for Science, Math, and Computer Science K-12 Educators, sponsored and operated by Argonne National Laboratory's Educational Programs, Andrew Skipor, Ph.D., Head of Educational Programs.

For assistance with NEWTON contact a System Operator (, or at Argonne's Educational Programs

Educational Programs
Building 360
9700 S. Cass Ave.
Argonne, Illinois
60439-4845, USA
Update: June 2012
Weclome To Newton

Argonne National Laboratory