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Can electrons knock out neutrons?

  1. Jan 19, 2015 #1
    I know that sufficiently energetic protons and photons (1.7MeV) can knock a neutron out of a beryllium nucleus. Can an electron do the same?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 19, 2015 #2

    mfb

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    In principle yes, but I would expect that the process is very unlikely as the neutron does not have a (net) charge.
     
  4. Jan 19, 2015 #3
    What do you think the probability of it occurring would be compared to a a proton or gamma ray doing the same?
     
  5. Jan 20, 2015 #4

    mfb

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    I don't know, but I guess someone studied it somewhere.
    Why do you ask?
     
  6. Jan 20, 2015 #5
    I was wondering because a commonly used neutron source is to use high voltages to accelerate protons into a target to produce neutrons for breeding medical isotopes. It just seemed to me you should be able to skip the "middle man" and get a higher efficiency out of it.
     
  7. Jan 20, 2015 #6

    mfb

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    How do you skip something if you replace protons by electrons?
    Protons interact with neutrons via the strong interaction, that makes the process much more likely.
     
  8. Jan 20, 2015 #7
    Interesting question since photons don't represent a net charge or capture mechanism.
    Then again, I don't know if acceleration process is simple and easy when you have to deliver almost 2 MeV.
     
  9. Jan 20, 2015 #8

    mfb

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    2 MeV is possible with DC acceleration. With protons you can even save 1 MV of high voltage because you can start with negatively charged ions and use the acceleration voltage twice.
     
  10. Jan 20, 2015 #9
    mfb,
    Agreed. Back in the days Van De Grafs were used, millions of volts were routinely developed. Then again, they were pressed into using high pressure containment to mitigate arcing. It does beg the question, what is a reasonable voltage for commercial use?
     
  11. Jan 20, 2015 #10

    mfb

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    I don't know if commercial applications use DC accelerators, but I know those do exist in this energy range.
     
  12. Jan 24, 2015 #11

    e.bar.goum

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    Hmpf! I'm sitting in the control room of a Van de Graaff accelerator that is in use right now. "Back in the days" indeed.
     
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