Subatomic Particles: What are they and what do they do?

In the tapestry of our universe, where all the things are arranged perfectly and elaborately, there is a realm of subatomic particles which cannot be seen by the naked human eye. The universe of subatomic particles which are the quarks, hadrons, gluons, leptons, the fundamental forces, the electron shells and the quantum numbers. With all having a unique function than one another.

What are the types of Subatomic Particles?

Mainly, there are 7 types of substances in the subatomic realm. These are the quarks, hadrons, gluons, leptons, fundamental forces, electron shells and quantum numbers. Each type of substance presents themselves as a unique particle, with each having a different function than the other particles.


Quarks are the elementary particles that make up the protons and the neutrons that are located in the nucleus of the atom. There are primarily 6 types of quarks: up (u), down (d), charm (c), strange (s), top (t), bottom (b). Also, quarks can never be found isolated due to the phenomenon called confinement, in which the strong nuclear force carried out by the gluons, binds the quarks together. There are unique functions of each quark. For instance, the up type quarks (u, c, t) have a fractional +2/3e charge and the down quarks (d, s, b) have the fractional charge of -1/3e.

Types of Quarks:
Up Quark (u):

Up Quarks have a partial charge of +2/3e, where e represents the elementary charge. These quarks have a relatively small mass compared to other types of quarks. Up Quarks play a crucial role within the formation of protons and neutrons that are in the nucleus, which are also the fundamental pieces of baryonic matter. The presence of Up Quarks affect the overall charge of the baryonic particle positively.

Down Quark (d):

Down Quarks have a charge of -1/3e. Similar to the Up Quarks, the Down Quarks have a mass that is relatively small. Like up quarks, down quarks are an essential part of baryonic matter, protons, and neutrons. Finally, down quarks impact the overall charge negatively.

Charm Quark (c):

Like Up Quarks, Charm Quarks have a charge of +2/3e. The mass of charm quarks are bigger compared to up and down quarks. Charm Quarks are involved in the formation of bigger particles, and they exhibit more lifespan than up and down quarks.

Strange Quarks (s):

Like Down Quarks, Strange Quarks have a mass of -1/3e. Their mass is bigger than the mass of up and down quarks, but their mass is relatively smaller than the mass of charm quarks. The main function of the strange quarks is that they contribute in forming more strange particles, and they also help these particles exhibit a longer lifespan than with particles that only consists of up and down quarks.

Top Quarks (t):

Like Charm Quarks and Up Quarks, these quarks have the charge of +2/3. The mass of these types of quarks are heavier than those of up, down, charm and strange quarks. The primary function of these quarks is that they participate in high-energy particle reactions. Also, top quarks have a role to thing related to electroweak force. Along with these, top quarks generally produced in energetic collisions.

Bottom Quarks (b):

The last type of quarks is the bottom quarks. Like Strange Quarks and Down Quarks, they have a charge of -1/3e. Bottom Quarks have a heavy mass, but not heavier than the mass of top quarks. Their function is to contribute to the formation of heavier hadrons such as baryons. Crucially, they have a vital role in expanding our understanding and knowledge of the strong forces in our universe, and they are found in a wide range of observed particles.


Hadrons are the composite particles that are made of quarks, which we have mentioned previously, Mainly there are two types of hadrons which are baryons and mesons.


Baryons are the hadrons that consist of three quarks, and the most common baryons are the protons and the neutrons. Experimental facilities, such as particle accelerators, play a crucial role for us to understand the hadrons.

Protons (p):

The protons are baryons that consist of two up quarks and one down quark (uud). They are found in the nucleus of the atom and are positively charged. Finally, protons are stable and have a long lifespan.

Neutrons (n):

Neutrons are the baryons that consist of one up quarks and two down quark (udd). They are electrically charged as neutral. Similar to protons, they are located in the nucleus of the atom, which are stable and has a long lifespan.


Mesons are the composite particles that consist of one quark and one anti-quark. Compared to baryons mesons have a shorter lifespan.

Pion (π):

The most known pions are the positive pion (π+) the negative pion (π-) and the neutral pion (π0). Also, charged pions (π+ and π-) are composed of an up or down quark and their corresponding anti-quark. Neutral pions (π0) are composed of a quark and an anti-quark pair with different kinds. The main function of the pions is to help us understand meditating strong nuclear forces between the protons and neutrons.

Kaon (K):

Mainly there are four types of kaons: two of them are charged (K+ and K-) and the two of them are neutrally charged (K0, K0^-). Kaons are consisted of strange quarks and some other lighter quarks. And finally, kaons exhibit strangeness and changing interactions which are involved in weak decays.

Eta (η):

The last type of meson is the eta they are neutral mesons composed of quark and anti-quark pairs. Finally, they are involved in strong and electromagnetic interactions.


Gluons are the elementary particles that meditate the strong forces, which is one of the four fundamental force that can be found in the nature. Unlike the other particles that carries force, gluons carry forces they mediate by themselves.

Functions of Gluons:

To start with, gluons carry color change which are, analogous to the electrical charge in electromagnetism. Mainly there are three types of color charge: red, blue and green, also their corresponding anticharges (antired, antiblue and antigreen). Gluons do not have a mass so they travel at the speed of the light. And finally, gluons have a spin of 1 which makes them spin-1 particles.

Like Gluons, Quarks also carry a color change. However, unlike the electric charge, which can be either positive or negative, color charges are found in three forms (blue, red, green) and their corresponding anticolor. Quarks change their colors by absorbing or emitting gluons. Also, the exchange of gluons between the quarks creates the strong force that creates protons, neutrons and other types of hadrons.

Totally, there are eight types of gluons with each responding to a color and anticolor charge combination: (rr’, bb’, gg’, rg’ gr’, gb’, bg’, and rb’).

Another important factor about gluons is that gluons does not only interact with quarks but also with other gluons as well. The reactions of gluons is a unique function of the strong force, and it helps with the complexity of strong interactions. Also, because of their interaction capabilities they can be split into pairs of quarks and anti-quarks, which allows scientists to create new quark and anti-quark pairs.


Leptons are another type of subatomic particles that does not exhibit strong nuclear force, but they are influenced by the weak nuclear force and electromagnetism. There are six types of leptons that are divided into three generations:

First Generation:

Electrons (e):

Electrons are a fundamental constituent of an atom. Orbiting around the nucleus in electron shells, they present a vital role in chemical reactions and in the electrical conductivity of materials. The mass of an electron is relatively small compared to other leptons, and their charge is -e.

Electron Neutrino (ν e):

Unlike electrons, Electron Neutrino has a neutral charge. These types of leptons are produced in various nuclear reactions, such as the ones that occur in the Sun. Electron Neutrinos are involved in weak reactions and take in the process of beta decay.

Second Generation:

Muons  (μ):

Like electrons, muons have a charge of -e. However, the mass of a muon is 207 times heavier than a mass of an electron. Muons are the heavier version of electrons, they have a short lifespan and they are not stable particles. They decay into electrons, neutrinos, and antineutrinos. These types of particles are created in cosmic ray interactions and in some particle collisions.

Muon Neutrino (ν μ):

Similar to the electron neutrinos, muon neutrinos have a neutral charge, They participate in weak reactions and formed in the decaying of muons.

Third Generation:

Tau (τ):

Taons are much heavier than muons and their approximate mass is 3200 time heavier than the mass of electron. A vital factor to know about taus are that the lifespan of taons are even shorter than the lifespan of the muons. Like muons and electrons, taons have a charge of -e, and they decay into muons, electrons, neutrinos, and antineutrinos. Taons are produced in high-energy reactions.

Tau Neutrinos (ν τ):

Like electron neutrinos and muon neutrinos, they have a neutral charge. These particles participate in weak reactions, and they are associated with processes involving tau particles.

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