Can the gain or loss of a neutron cause transmutation?

1 Answer
Jul 26, 2018

Answer:

Yes. In alpha, beta minus, and beta plus decay, the atomic number of the parent isotope is increased or decreased due to the loss or gain of a neutron. The change in atomic number changes the identity of the parent isotope to a daughter isotope with a different identity.

Explanation:

Transmutation is the transformation of one element into another by one or a series of nuclear decays or reactions.

Alpha decay occurs when an unstable nucleus emits an alpha particle, which is identical to a helium-4 nucleus #(""_2^4"He")#, which contains two neutrons and two protons. This decreases the mass number by four and the atomic number by two. So, since the atomic number decreases, the parent isotope is transmutated to a different isotope (daughter isotope). For example, seaborgium-263 #(""_106^263"Sg")# undergoes alpha decay to form rutherfordium-259, #(""_104^259"Rf")#.

#""_106^263"Sg"##rarr##""_104^259"Rf"+""_2^4"He"#

http://www2.lbl.gov/abc/wallchart/chapters/03/1.html

There are two types of beta decay; beta minus decay and beta plus decay. A beta particle is a high energy electron or positron (positively charged electron. In beta minus decay, a neutron decays into a proton, an electron, and an antineutrino: #"n"^0"##rarr##"p"^(+) + "e"^(-) + barnu_e#. This increases the atomic number by one, so the parent isotope transmutates to a daughter isotope.

For example, a neutron in carbon-14 #(""_6^14"C")# decays into a proton and emits an electron and an antineutrino. This increases the atomic number by one, but the mass number remains the same. The daughter isotope is nitrogen-14 #(""_7^14"N")#.

#""_6^14"C"##rarr##""_7^14"N" + e"^(-) + barnu_e#

http://www2.lbl.gov/abc/wallchart/chapters/03/2.html

In beta plus decay, a proton decays into a neutron, a positron, and a neutrino: #"p"^+"##rarr##"n"^0 + e"^(+) + nu_e#. This decreases the atomic number by one, which means the nucleus is transmutated. For example, a neutron in a fluorine-18 nucleus #(""_9^18"F")# decays into a neutron, emitting a positron and a neutrino. This results in a loss of a proton, decreasing the atomic number by one. Therefore, the daughter isotope will be oxygen-18, #(""_8^18"O")#.

#""_9^18"F"##rarr##""_8^18"O"+ e"^(+) + nu_e#

http://www2.lbl.gov/abc/wallchart/chapters/03/2.html