Apologies to all if this has been asked before, I searched but was unable to find one similar.
This is a question that has been bugging me for a while that i haven't really been able to find a suitable answer for.
I am aware that the space between an atoms nucleus and its electron cloud is teeming with virtual particles that allow the exchange of energy that give electrons an assigned energy level or 'shell' but what bugs me is about the space in between atoms.
What is in between atoms? is it classifiable as a vacuum where nothing at all exists?
I would find it hard to believe that atoms are pushed right up against each other at all times due to repulsive charges on the nucleus acting upon any other.
I accept that the gap is unbelievably small but on the scale of atoms and electrons, how small are we talking? Is there even a gap at all? Do we know what is in between or is it unknown? is it a similar process to the virtual particles between nucleus and electrons?
It is to my limited understanding that when particles "collide" there is no physical interaction, rather an exchange of energy through virtual photons. Is that what exists in all of these gaps? a constant exchange of virtual energy that acts as a consistent repulsion between all atoms?