Why don't protons stick to electrons?

01 November 2009

ATOM-CARTOON

Cartoon schematic of an atom

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Question

Why don't electrons stick to protons if there’s electrons whizzing around the outside of an atom and the protons are the positive bit in the middle? Why don't the two just collapse in on each other?

Answer

Naked Scientist Dave Ansell got stuck into this question...

Okay, in a very simple sense, they do stick to protons as much as they can.

They're attracted to protons and so they form atoms. An atom is essentially electrons stuck to protons.

What you really are asking though is why don't they get any closer than they do?

It's all basically to do with the fact that electrons - in fact, everything - has wave properties. And the electron's wavelengths are about a similar sort of size as an atom, and that's the reason why atoms are that sort of size over the order of the wavelength in electron.

And so you can't really compress a wave any smaller than one or few wavelengths. So the electron can't get any smaller than that without actually changing its properties entirely. Which means it can't actually get any closer to the proton in the centre of the nucleus than it does. So it's stuck as close as it can.

You can cause - if at very high pressures - electrons essentially to react with protons and turn into neutrons, and this is what happens in neutron stars. A neutron actually isn't stable just lying around in the atmosphere, or in a vacuum. It decays in about 14 minutes into an electron and proton and forms into a hydrogen atom.

Comments

this was the basic question of physics in early 1900. to solve it, Quantum physics was founded. I think it belongs to wavelengths of proton and electron.

Why proton and neutron in an atom do not attract each other

Protons and neutrons don't attract each other because neutrons have no charge they are neutral than how protons will attract them.

The above answer, if I understand what the author is trying to say (wave properties and the like), is wrong. Atoms come in different sizes. The more protons and neutrons in a nucleus, the bigger the nucleus. Hence the bigger the atom. The popular potential energy approaching -infinity while the kinetic energy approaches twice positive infinity is also um...well.... here's the simple answer. they do combine. Quite often. And when they do, their masses combine to magically add up to about that of a neutron. All of that near infinite X2 kinetic energy from the electron plus the electron spin (or about half of it as well as half the proton spin) are shed into something we happily and naively call light. Of course, both the electron and the proton have to be at the proper orientation with regard to velocity, spin and well...you get the picture. And there can't be something in the way like say another neutron. Sounds like a lot? Yeah it is. But, if you're an electron or a proton, and you're left alone, you've nothing better to do so you wind up giving it a try countless times a second.

i really don't know anything about it! my sir gave me this as homework! can anybody help me?

is there any other helpful explanation on the basis of the student studying in class 8?????

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