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Can we add or remove a proton?

  1. Mar 14, 2008 #1
    Have we successfully removed a proton from an atom, or added one? Can we take mercury and remove a proton, or add one to platinum, and so make gold?

    Has this been done in a lab?

  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 14, 2008 #2
    Isn't this is what we do in nuclear fission/fusion [atom bomb etc.]? But I think adding or removing just one proton might be very hard.
  4. Mar 14, 2008 #3
    I thought the atom bomb relied on neutrons, not protons? A neutron does not loose momentum or deflect as it approach it's target, since it has no charge, and that when the atom splits it releases new neutrons?

  5. Mar 14, 2008 #4


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    But when the atom splits, the nucleous divides into pieces so in that sense the atom has also lost protons. But, of course, the nucleous has to be very unstable to begin with. I don't know anyway to remove just one proton or how to remove anything from the nucleous of stable atoms.
  6. Mar 14, 2008 #5


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    This has already been done as far back as 1919. Ernest Rutherford then transmuted nitrogen gas into oxygen by bombarding it with alpha particles.
    See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_transmutation for more details.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
  7. Mar 15, 2008 #6


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    I did not know that!
  8. Mar 15, 2008 #7


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    Yes, it's surprising that something as apparently groundbreaking as this is rarely known. I myself didn't learn of this by reading either a textbook or a short biography of Rutherford. I was reading a book which contained the author's summary of the history of science since the Ancient Greeks and chanced upon Rutherford's 1919 discovery when the author was discussing the supposedly dead concept of transmutation.
  9. Mar 15, 2008 #8
    While I'm uncertain whether this has been done or not I'm pretty sure that part of the work of some particle accelerators is to fabricate certain materials with specific isotopes in them. Whether we can pick and choose which atoms we can and have added a single proton is unknown to me. However I believe I can find out from someone who works in that field. I'll check and get back to you.

  10. Mar 16, 2008 #9
  11. Mar 22, 2008 #10
    What happens with the energy and the energy after in this case? Does the change produce any heat to make a small nuclear reactor out of it?

    I like this bit in the wikipedia entry:

    > At the moment of realization, Soddy later recalled, he shouted out: "Rutherford, this is transmutation!" Rutherford snapped back, "For Christ's sake, Soddy, don't call it transmutation. They'll have our heads off as alchemists."

    Well said. A pioneer must remember to either keep his mouth shut, or phrase profound discoveries in a way that doesn't invite the attention of dogmatic thinker thought police.
  12. Mar 23, 2008 #11


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    Most transmutations are too inefficient to power a reactor, but there are concepts for transmuation using proton accelerators as in Accelerator Driven systems for transactinide transmutation.

    Transmutation is the appropriate word for what Rutherford and other did, but it carried a somewhat negative context in that day and time. Rutherford could have been joking as well.

    Rutherford's paper of 1911 (or at least a transcription).

    I believer Rutherford used Ra or Po as a source of alpha particles.
  13. Mar 24, 2008 #12
    > The alpha particles collided with, and were absorbed by, the nitrogen nuclei, and protons were ejected. In the process oxygen and hydrogen nuclei were created.

    Is there any table of the rest masses of all the objects involved here?
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