Nuclear Transmutation

Key Questions

  • Transmutation, the changing of one chemical element into another.

    Transmutation involves a change in the nucleus, or core, of an atom and is, therefore, a nuclear reaction. Transformations may result from nuclear decay of radioactive isotopes, or they can result from neutron capture. Neither necessarily involves a change in the element of the atom.

    When the number of protons in an atom is changed, the atom is transmuted into an atom of another element.

    A neutron capture can leave the atomic number the same, but always increases the number of nucleons. This changes the isotope number but the change is not chemical, since the atom is still what it had been.

    Natural transmutation occurs in unstable, radioactive elements, which decay into a series of other elements until a stable element is formed. Thus, uranium 238 spontaneously transmutes into lead 206, which is stable.

  • Answer:

    In the transmutation processes, an atom has its nucleon attributes changed (e.g. number of protons)


    Nuclear transmutation is the conversion of one chemical element or an isotope into another.

    A transmutation can be achieved either by nuclear reactions (in which an outside particle reacts with a nucleus) or by radioactive decay (where no outside particle is needed).

    Therefore, in nuclear transmutation, an atom has its "identity" (e.g. atomic mass) "lost" (changed) due to nucleon alteration.

    Nuclear fission, that can generate transmutation

    Alfa decay, that can generate transmutation
    Beta decay, that can generate transmutation
    See (external links)

    See (related Q&A)