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I Radioactive decay of Carbon 14

  1. Aug 19, 2017 #1
    Alright, a very simple question here. I am reading about nuclear decay of Carbon 14 into Nitrogen 14. I understand how one electron is released and subsequently one neutron turns into a proton, but I am curious about how many electrons are left with the Nitrogen atom. I want to believe five, as that Carbon 14 would have had 6 initially. Is this correct?

    I believe my root problem here is that I don't thoroughly understand beta

    Any body want to share some insight?
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 19, 2017 #2


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    One neutron turns into a proton plus an electron plus an antineutrino. The electron and the antineutrino are created in the decay.
  4. Aug 19, 2017 #3


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    Note that the electron (or positron) in a beta decay will generally escape from the atom, leaving an ion behind. The Q-values are typically much larger than the binding energy.
  5. Aug 19, 2017 #4


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    The nitrogen atom initially has the same electrons as the carbon atom had - 6. Typically it will quickly collect an electron from the environment to become a neutral nitrogen atom with 7 electrons.
  6. Aug 20, 2017 #5
    Your basic misconception is I think that the electron released via the nuclear reaction is one of the orbital electrons of the original C14 atom. It is not; it is created in the nucleus and flies off, although it may potentially disturb the orbital electrons, that is not the rule. Generally speaking there would be 6 electrons left (assuming a neutral atom). The N14 atom would later presumably gain the 7th electron somehow.
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