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Q & A: Improbable nuclei made of neutrons and electrons

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Most recent answer: 02/17/2016
Q:
How would an atom react if, it's nucleus contained neutrons and electrons, while protons orbitted it?
- Harsh Lalan (age 21)
Mumbai, India
A:

Hello Harsh

You describe a rather unlikely combination.   The electrons would repel each other and fly apart.  The reason that many positive protons can stay together in a nucleus is that the attractive strong nuclear force overwhelms the positive charge repulsion. You need some neutrons in an ordinary nucleus to add to the attractive force.  

LeeH

Also, because the electrons have small masses, squashing them into small spaces requires an enormous amount of energy. Because of the Uncertainty Relation, the kinetic energy of a mass-m particle squashed into a region of size R is very roughly (1/m)h2/R2, where h is Planck's constant. So even if the electrons didn't repel each other, it would take lots of energy to squeeze them into a small space.  /Mike W.


(published on 02/17/2016)

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