The alchemy of merging neutron stars

For the first time, astronomers have identified a chemical element that was freshly formed by the merging of two neutron stars. The underlying mechanism, called the r-process—also known as rapid neutron capture—is considered ...

Nuclear—Out of this world

If humankind reaches Mars this century, an Oak Ridge National Laboratory-developed experiment testing advanced materials for spacecraft may play a key role.

Scientists confirm a new 'magic number' for neutrons

An international collaboration led by scientists from the University of Hong Kong, RIKEN (Japan), and CEA (France) have used the RI Beam Factory (RIBF) at the RIKEN Nishina Center for Accelerator-base Science to show that ...

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Neutron

The neutron is a subatomic particle with no net electric charge and a mass slightly larger than that of a proton.

Neutrons are usually found in atomic nuclei. The nuclei of most atoms consist of protons and neutrons, which are therefore collectively referred to as nucleons. The number of protons in a nucleus is the atomic number and defines the type of element the atom forms. The number of neutrons determines the isotope of an element. For example, the carbon-12 isotope has 6 protons and 6 neutrons, while the carbon-14 isotope has 6 protons and 8 neutrons.

While bound neutrons in stable nuclei are stable, free neutrons are unstable; they undergo beta decay with a lifetime of just under 15 minutes (885.7 ± 0.8 s). Free neutrons are produced in nuclear fission and fusion. Dedicated neutron sources like research reactors and spallation sources produce free neutrons for the use in irradiation and in neutron scattering experiments.

Even though it is not a chemical element, the free neutron is sometimes included in tables of nuclides. It is then considered to have an atomic number of zero and a mass number of one.

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