|What would happen if a nucleus only consisted of
protons ? Would it produce charge? Or will it
split the nucleus or stored things (in which the
protons are stored)?|
|Question Date: 2018-11-09|
Indeed, if a nucleus only has protons, it will
be unstable, and split up, simply because
protons all carry positive charges (same charges
repel each other due to the Coulomb
interaction ). Neutrons can stabilize a
nucleus, because they roughly act like bonds
between protons. They will bind protons together
through what is called the strong force.
The strong force is a very short range force
which only dominates within very small
distance, like the size of a nucleus.
However, the smallest nucleus, the hydrogen
nucleus only has one proton, so it does not need
neutron to be stabilized.
An atom’s nucleus is made of protons and
neutrons. Protons are positively charged, and
if you have ever played with magnets you know that
positive charges like to be next to negative
charges and do not like to be next to other
positive charges. Scientists would say that “like
charges repel each other.” So how does the
nucleus stay together if all those positively
charged protons do not want to be next to each
other? Well, there is a force called the
strong force which holds protons and
neutrons together, which is much stronger than the
repulsion between like charges. So because the
nucleus has both protons and neutrons, the
strong force can hold all of them together.
Without neutrons, the protons in a nucleus
would fly apart since there would only be
repulsion forces due to the positive charges not
wanting to be near each other.
In science research, we have so far not seen
nuclei with only protons, except for hydrogen. The
most likely reason that we don't see other atoms
forming nuclei with protons with no neutrons or
electrons is that such a thing would not be
stable. In other words, there are forces that
would not allow such a thing to exist under normal
conditions. A hydrogen nucleus with a single
proton and no neutrons or electrons occurs when a
hydrogen atom loses an electron, although this
form does not exist for long because it reacts
very quickly with things around it. This form is
just a single proton, and it has a charge of
positive one. Aside from this form of a hydrogen
ion, aka a single proton, nuclei with protons only
(no neutrons or electrons) do not commonly exist.
One answer is that an atom can be stable with a
nucleus comprising only protons, but only in the
case that the nucleus contains only a single
proton. This is the case for hydrogen atoms
(at least, most hydrogen - deuterium, tritium, and
isotopes, all with one proton and 1+ neutrons,
Presumably you want more than a single proton in
the nucleus though. A nucleus of many protons and
no neutrons would not be stable because protons
have a positive electric charge. Since charges of
the same sign repel, protons repel each other
(even in real materials which have neutrons in the
nucleus). With nothing else to hold the protons
together, this repulsion would rip the nucleus
apart. As explained
here, neutrons hold the nucleus together
strong nuclear force.
I'm not sure what is meant by "Would it
produce charge?". A nucleus of only protons
would contain only particles with positive
charges, so such a nucleus would also have a
In addition to the electromagnetic repulsion, a
nucleus of only (multiple) protons would almost
certainly be radioactively unstable though, which
seems to be the intent of the final question.
Basically, the all-proton nucleus would be very
high in energy, and to get rid of some energy it
would undergo a nuclear process. While there are
more types possible in real materials, the only
ones available to this nucleus would be
positron emission (releasing a sort of
positively-charged electron from a proton) and
electron capture (adding a
negatively-charged electron to a proton). Both of
these would reduce the nuclear charge (and number
of protons in the nucleus) by 1 while increasing
the number of neutrons in the nucleus.
The force that holds the atomic nucleus together
is known as the strong force. Recall that
are positively charged and repel each other by the
electromagnetic force (a positive charge repels
another positive charge). The reason that the
positive nucleus doesn’t fly apart is because of
the strong nuclear force which acts between
protons and neutrons and “glues” them together.
This force is caused by the exchange of a particle
known as a
gluon ), acting
between quarks (which are the subatomic
that make up both protons and neutrons). Removing
neutrons from a nucleus would decrease the strong
force while increasing the electrostatic repulsion
of protons (by moving them closer together).
Eventually, if enough neutrons were removed, the
electrostatic repulsion might become stronger than
the strong force holding the nucleus together and
the nucleus would break apart.
The most common isotope in the universe is
hydrogen-1, which consists of a single proton and
no neutrons. Approximately 90% of the atoms in the
universe are of this isotope.
Larger atoms with more protons will undergo
inverse beta decay, emitting a positron and
converting one of the protons into a neutron with
each decay. This will cause an unstable
proton-heavy isotope to reduce its number of
protons and pick up neutrons until it becomes
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