Protons Definition and 14 Discussions

A proton is a subatomic particle, symbol p or p+, with a positive electric charge of +1e elementary charge and a mass slightly less than that of a neutron. Protons and neutrons, each with masses of approximately one atomic mass unit, are jointly referred to as "nucleons" (particles present in atomic nuclei).
One or more protons are present in the nucleus of every atom; they are a necessary part of the nucleus. The number of protons in the nucleus is the defining property of an element, and is referred to as the atomic number (represented by the symbol Z). Since each element has a unique number of protons, each element has its own unique atomic number.
The word proton is Greek for "first", and this name was given to the hydrogen nucleus by Ernest Rutherford in 1920. In previous years, Rutherford had discovered that the hydrogen nucleus (known to be the lightest nucleus) could be extracted from the nuclei of nitrogen by atomic collisions. Protons were therefore a candidate to be a fundamental particle, and hence a building block of nitrogen and all other heavier atomic nuclei.
Although protons were originally considered fundamental or elementary particles, in the modern Standard Model of particle physics, protons are classified as hadrons, like neutrons, the other nucleon. Protons are composite particles composed of three valence quarks: two up quarks of charge +2/3e and one down quark of charge −1/3e. The rest masses of quarks contribute only about 1% of a proton's mass. The remainder of a proton's mass is due to quantum chromodynamics binding energy, which includes the kinetic energy of the quarks and the energy of the gluon fields that bind the quarks together. Because protons are not fundamental particles, they possess a measurable size; the root mean square charge radius of a proton is about 0.84–0.87 fm (or 0.84×10−15 to 0.87×10−15 m). In 2019, two different studies, using different techniques, have found the radius of the proton to be 0.833 fm, with an uncertainty of ±0.010 fm.Free protons occur occasionally on Earth: thunderstorms can produce protons with energies of up to several tens of MeV. At sufficiently low temperatures and kinetic energies, free protons will bind to electrons. However, the character of such bound protons does not change, and they remain protons. A fast proton moving through matter will slow by interactions with electrons and nuclei, until it is captured by the electron cloud of an atom. The result is a protonated atom, which is a chemical compound of hydrogen. In vacuum, when free electrons are present, a sufficiently slow proton may pick up a single free electron, becoming a neutral hydrogen atom, which is chemically a free radical. Such "free hydrogen atoms" tend to react chemically with many other types of atoms at sufficiently low energies. When free hydrogen atoms react with each other, they form neutral hydrogen molecules (H2), which are the most common molecular component of molecular clouds in interstellar space.
Free protons are routinely used for accelerators for proton therapy or various particle physics experiments, with the most powerful example being the Large Hadron Collider.

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  1. Adams2020

    I Loss of electron & proton energy due to radiation

    Can you compare the energy loss of electrons and protons due to the radiation they emit? In fact, I want to know which of the two loses more energy when it emits radiation.
  2. T

    In electrostatics, what is meant by positive charges?

    I am needing clarification for a concept. I understand that electrons carry a negative charge and that protons carry a positive charge. I also understand that a plastic rod picks up electrons when I rub it with a piece of wool. From the conservation of charge, the piece of wool must have a...
  3. G

    Magnetic Field from Protons vs Electrons

    If an electron is moving in a circle in a magnetic field, it produces a magnetic field in accordance to the right hand rule. If a proton is moving in a circle in a magnetic field, would it produce a magnetic field in accordance to the left hand equivalent to the right hand rule.
  4. N

    I Length Contraction of Protons in the LHC

    What affect does the phenomenon of "length contraction" have on the shape (e.g. spherical, rugby ball, barbell, donut) of protons accelerated to 0.999999991 c in the LHC?
  5. S

    Problem about momentum uncertainty

    Homework Statement According to the Big Bang model of cosmology, the universe has been expanding since some initial time (call it t = 0) when the temperature was infinite. At early times, the temperature T scales as t^1/2 . The current temperature is about 3K. Consider the part of space which...
  6. Const@ntine

    Chemistry Measuring the Mass & Electric Charge of Molecules

    Homework Statement Hi! So I stumbled upon this simple "plug n' play" exercise in my Physics textbook. Basically it gives you certain molecules/atoms, and tells you to measure the Electric Charge, and its Mass. Pretty simple, but I hit upon some hickups. Anyway, let's get to it: Find the...
  7. I

    Speed of an object relative to another

    Homework Statement In a colliding beam apparatus, two beams of protons are aimed at each other. The first proton moves with a speed of 0.82c to the right; the second moves with a speed of 0.86c to the left. Both speeds are measured relative to the laboratory frame of reference. What is the...
  8. Eric Putney

    I Can a (uuu) baryon exist? If so, why wouldn't protons decay

    Is this some sort of issue with color or another quantity that needs to be conserved?
  9. Iron_Man_123

    Which of the following is not an example of ionizing radiati

    Homework Statement Homework Equations Between Radio Waves and Protons is where my confusion lies; Online I read that Radio waves are non ionizing but if that's the answer then how are protons ionizing? I mean it's no even included in the types of ionizing radiation here...
  10. P

    Electric Field Help Please

    Homework Statement The figure below shows five protons that are launched in a uniform electric field E (green). The magnitude and direction of the launch velocities are indicated. Rank the protons according to the magnitude of their accelerations due to the field, greatest first. Justify...
  11. O

    What is an elementary particle?

    When my eighth grade daughter was studying physics in her class, I watched a movie with her on the Hadron Collider (" Particle Fever "). We discussed atoms, electrons, protons, neutrons; we discussed orbits and statistics, and then down into the standard model and fermions, leptons, yadda...
  12. N

    Electrical Fields within the body

    So I was thinking, if the body has its own electrical currents... especially in the brain, then the brain must have an electrical field that extends infinitely. If that is the case can the brains electrical field interact with the real world and influence it. So for example if the field was...
  13. O

    A proton and an electron

    I know this question sounds... find a word for it you like... But please bear with me. A proton. An electron. Not very high speeds...Vacuum.. A proton has an electric field, so does an electron... They arrive into each others' fields and start to accelerate towards each other... What...
  14. gauss44

    Van Allen Belt: Why are electrons generally further out?

    Why are electrons generally further out than protons in the Van Allen Belt?