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Discovery and Characteristics of Neutron and Protons

Neutrons and protons are crucial components of an atom. Discovered in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, respectively, they form the crux of everything around us.

Get to know more about protons and neutrons here.


Protons were first discovered in 1815 when English chemist William Prout proposed that all atoms are formed of hydrogen atoms (which he referred to as protyles).

When German scientist Eugen Goldstein discovered canal rays (positively charged ions created by gases) in 1886, it was determined that the hydrogen ion has the highest charge-to-mass ratio of all gases. The hydrogen ion was also found to have the lowest size of all the ionized gases.

Ernest Rutherford found the nucleus of the atom in his famous gold foil experiment in 1911. He concluded that all of an atom’s positively charged particles were contained in a single core and that most of the atom’s volume was empty.

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He also claimed that the entire number of positively charged particles in the nucleus equals the number of negatively charged electrons in the surrounding space.

Proton’s Discovery

In his renowned gold foil experiment in 1909, Rutherford discovered the proton.

Experiment with Gold Foil:

In his gold foil experiment, Rutherford attacked an ultrathin gold foil with alpha particles and then detected the dispersed alpha particles on a zinc sulfide (ZnS) screen.


The majority of the particles pass through the foil unaffected.

The alpha particles deflect at a slight angle in some cases.

Only a small percentage of people recover (1 in 20,000).


Rutherford hypothesized the following structural properties of an atom based on his observations.

  • The nucleus, which contains most of the atom’s mass and positive charge, is a tiny core. The proton is a positively charged particle.
  • The majority of an atom’s volume is space.
  • Outside the nucleus, the number of negatively charged electrons is equal to the number of positively charged electrons in the nucleus. It describes an atom’s total electrical neutrality.

A Proton Is Defined As: 

“The fundamental particle of an atom, which is denoted by symbol p or p+. It has a positive electric charge of 1e elementary charge and a mass slightly less than that of a neutron.”

Proton Characteristics

The proton is a positively charged particle with the following characteristics:

Proton Mass 

The Mass of a Proton Is the Same as That of a Hydrogen Atom

One electron and one proton make up a hydrogen atom. Because the mass of an electron is deemed unimportant, the mass of a hydrogen atom can be stated to be equal to the mass of a proton. A proton has a mass of 1840 times that of an electron.

Mass of proton = 1.676 × 10-27 kg = 1.676 × 10-24 g = 1.6726219 × 10-27 kg

Proton Charge 

A proton’s charge is equal to and opposite that of an electron. As a result, it has a single positive charge.

Charge on a proton = 1.602 × 10-19 coulombs


By 1920, scientists had discovered that the nucleus contains the majority of the atom’s mass. Protons are found in the central core. James Chadwick, on the other hand, found it in 1932. He discovered that the core includes a new uncharged particle, which he named neutron

How Did Neutrons Come To Be Discovered?

  • James Chadwick used a polonium source to shoot alpha radiation at a beryllium sheet. As a result, uncharged, penetrating radiation was produced.
  • This radiation was incident on paraffin wax, a hydrocarbon that contains a lot of hydrogen.
  • With the use of an ionization chamber, the protons expelled from the paraffin wax (when impacted by the uncharged radiation) were seen.
  • Chadwick researched the interaction between the uncharged radiation and the atoms of numerous gases and measured the range of the freed protons.
  • He concluded that the unusually penetrating radiation was made up of uncharged particles with the mass of a proton (about). Neutrons were eventually given to these particles.

The Term “Neutron” Can Be Defined as Follows:

“A subatomic particle of an atom denoted by n or n0. It has no net electric charge and a mass slightly greater than that of a proton.” Chadwick was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1935 for his original observation. It’s worth noting that, with the exception of hydrogen, all atoms include neutrons. Only a proton and an electron make up a hydrogen atom.

Chadwick used high-energy alpha particles to blast beryllium atoms in his experiment. He saw that some new particles with no charge are released, and their mass is the same as that of a proton. A neutron is commonly denoted by the letter “n,” and it has no charge. The mass number of an atom is determined by the total number of protons and neutrons present.

Neutron Characteristics 

  1. There exist electrically neutral particles.
  1. The mass of the neutron is 1.675 x 10−2410−24,
    which is somewhat higher than that of a proton.
  1. Because they don’t have an electric charge, they can’t be measured analytically using this method.
  1. They have a lot of penetration, although not as much as cosmic rays.


While you may have been confused about the two, we hope you are now clear on what neutrons and protons are. Get to know more by researching both in greater detail.


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