The Discovery of the Neutron

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Atom is the smallest, indivisible basic part of any matter. It consists of a nucleus that is surrounded by a set of electrons. In its turn, the nucleus includes protons, which are positively charged, and neutrons. The neutron is a subatomic uncharged particle. The neutron is a fermion and belongs to the class of baryons. It is marked with symbol n or n0. The neutrons are located in the nucleus of an atom (Khemlani).

The Greek philosophers were the first men who began to explore the atom. Philosopher Democritus stated that numerous types of atoms exist. He argued that people were not able to sense the atoms physically. Democritus placed an emphasis on the idea that the atoms had different shapes and sizes. He insisted that an atom could not be divided into parts (“Democritus”).

Centuries later, the English physicist John Dalton formulated the Atomic Theory. According to his theory, the atoms consist of small particles and cannot be separated or destroyed. All atoms of any element have identical mass, size, and shape. The Atomic Theory indicates that atoms can be separated or combined in chemical reactions (Rocke).

At the beginning of the 20th century, nuclear physicist Ernest Rutherford advanced the idea of the existence of the neutron.In 1932, the English physicist James Chadwick conducted a set of experiments. He bombarded beryllium with alpha particles and obtained a new type of radiation. He stated that the radiation included neutral particles, because a magnetic field could not affect it. Thus, Chadwick called the uncharged particles “neutrons.” (McPhee).  

The neutrons play the crucial role in the cohesion of the nucleus. The neutrons lose the mass and convert it into the binding energy that holds the nucleus of an atom together. In addition, the neutrons have an impact on the radioactive properties of the atom (Khemlani).

The neutrons are used in different chemical and physical researches. Scientists analyze a wide range of materials, from liquids to cell membranes, with the help of the neutrons. Moreover, physicists use the neutron activation analysis (NAA) to identify unknown materials (“Neutrons Playing Big Role in Scientific Advancement”). The neutrons produce radioactive isotopes that are used in the creation of nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons.

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