Which factors will we consider for deciding whether a proton is easier to remove or a neutron? Considering Coulombic forces, proton experiences repulsive force and hence easier to remove. But why will we not consider attraction from electrons? Can we decide it without experimental data and values ?


Is proton easier to remove from a nucleus than a neutron?

This is a question that can be answered only qualitatively within the nuclear physics models, since the nucleus is a quantum mechanical state bound by the spill over colored strong force.. Various quantum mechanical models can successfully predict the behavior of nuclei under interactions, as well as of the periodic table of elements.

The correct question should be, are protons less bound than neutrons?

To first order the answer is no: basic in the structure of the nuclear models is isotopic spin symmetry. For the strong interaction protons and neutrons are symmetric, and equal bindings should arise. The electromagnetic interaction does play a role, as seen in the possible isotopes seen in nature, when there are too many protons, but also the weak interaction does when there are too many neutrons.

So when there are too many protons, the strong force cannot keep all of them, and when there are too many neutrons the weak force eliminates one is the qualitative answer. When they are just right, the nucleus is stable, with equally bound protons and neutrons.

  • $\begingroup$ Indeed, and this is pretty easy to see with the Atomic Mass Evaluation tables, looking at the energies of nuclei that are one proton vs one neutron short of a given parent nuclei. $\endgroup$ – Jon Custer Nov 10 '20 at 14:32

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