Check us out at http://www.tutorvista.com//videos The neutron is a subatomic particle with no net electric charge and a mass slightly larger than that of a proton. They 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 is the neutron number and determines the isotope of an element. For example, the abundant carbon-12 isotope has 6 protons and 6 neutrons, while the very rare radioactive 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 mean 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 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, and is sometimes referred to as neutronium. In 1931 Walther Bothe and Herbert Becker in Germany found that if the very energetic alpha particles emitted from polonium fell on certain light elements, specifically beryllium, boron, or lithium, an unusually penetrating radiation was produced. At first this radiation was thought to be gamma radiation, although it was more penetrating than any gamma rays known, and the details of experimental results were very difficult to interpret on this basis. The next important contribution was reported in 1932 by Ir?ne Joliot-Curie and Fr?d?ric Joliot in Paris. They showed that if this unknown radiation fell on paraffin, or any other hydrogen-containing compound, it ejected protons of very high energy. This was not in itself inconsistent with the assumed gamma ray nature of the new radiation, but detailed quantitative analysis of the data became increasingly difficult to reconcile with such a hypothesis. In 1932, James Chadwick performed a series of experiments at the University of Manchester, showing that the gamma ray hypothesis was untenable. He suggested that the new radiation consisted of uncharged particles of approximately the mass of the proton, and he performed a series of experiments verifying his suggestion. These uncharged particles were called neutrons, apparently from the Latin root for neutral and the Greek ending -on (by imitation of electron and proton). The discovery of the neutron explained a puzzle involving the spin of the nitrogen-14 nucleus, which had been experimentally measured to be 1 ?. It was known that atomic nuclei usually had about half as many positive charges as if they were composed completely of protons, and in existing models this was often explained by proposing that nuclei also contained some "nuclear electrons" to neutralize the excess charge. Thus, nitrogen-14 would be composed of 14 protons and 7 electrons to give it a charge of +7 but a mass of 14 atomic mass units. However, it was also known that both protons and electrons carried an intrinsic spin of 1?2 ?, and there was no way to arrange 21 particles in one group, or in groups of 7 and 14, to give a spin of 1 ?. All possible pairings gave a net spin of 1?2 ?. However, when nitrogen-14 was proposed to consist of 3 pairs of protons and neutrons, with an additional unpaired neutron and proton each contributing a spin of 1?2 ? in the same direction for a total spin of 1 ?, the model became viable. Soon, nuclear neutrons were used to naturally explain spin differences in many different nuclides in the same way, and the neutron as a basic structural unit of atomic nuclei was accepted.
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