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Simple Definitions

The most important electronics terms, demystified in one place.

Neutron

Our Take

An elementary particle with a neutral charge. Part of the makeup of an atom’s nucleus but doesn’t play a significant role in electronics.

Book Definition

Particle without electric charge in the nucleus of an atom.

Grob’s Basic Electronics, 11th Edition by Mitchel E. Schultz

An uncharged particle found in the nucleus of an atom.

Electronic Devices : Conventional Current Version, 9th Edition by Thomas L. Floyd

Wikipedia

The neutron is a subatomic particle, symbol n or n0, with no net electric charge and a mass slightly greater than that of a proton. Protons and neutrons constitute the nuclei of atoms. Since protons and neutrons behave similarly within the nucleus, and each has a mass of approximately one atomic mass unit, they are both referred to as nucleons.[5] Their properties and interactions are described by nuclear physics.

The chemical and nuclear properties of the nucleus are determined by the number of protons, called the atomic number, and the number of neutrons, called the neutron number. The atomic mass number is the total number of nucleons. For example, carbon has atomic number 6, and its abundant carbon-12 isotope has 6 neutrons, whereas its rare carbon-13 isotope has 7 neutrons. Some elements occur in nature with only one stable isotope, such as fluorine. Other elements occur with many stable isotopes, such as tin with ten stable isotopes.

Within the nucleus, protons and neutrons are bound together through the nuclear force. Neutrons are required for the stability of nuclei, with the exception of the single-proton hydrogen atom. Neutrons are produced copiously in nuclear fission and fusion. They are a primary contributor to the nucleosynthesis of chemical elements within stars through fission, fusion, and neutron capture processes.

The neutron is essential to the production of nuclear power. In the decade after the neutron was discovered by James Chadwick in 1932,[6] neutrons were used to induce many different types of nuclear transmutations. With the discovery of nuclear fission in 1938,[7] it was quickly realized that, if a fission event produced neutrons, each of these neutrons might cause further fission events, in a cascade known as a nuclear chain reaction.[8] These events and findings led to the first self-sustaining nuclear reactor (Chicago Pile-1, 1942) and the first nuclear weapon (Trinity, 1945).

Free neutrons, while not directly ionizing atoms, cause ionizing radiation. As such they can be a biological hazard, depending upon dose.[8] A small natural "neutron background" flux of free neutrons exists on Earth, caused by cosmic ray showers, and by the natural radioactivity of spontaneously fissionable elements in the Earth's crust.[9] Dedicated neutron sources like neutron generators, research reactors and spallation sources produce free neutrons for use in irradiation and in neutron scattering experiments.

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