My confusion lies in that the number of protons in the nucleus will increase but is the number of electrons assumed to automatically follow suit such that the result is a neutral atom with equal numbers of electrons and protons? Shouldn't the expected result rather be a cation?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ An ion is still an atom. Atoms don’t have to be neutral to be atoms $\endgroup$
    – Dale
    Apr 16 at 13:40
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks. The reason I needed clarification on the terms used is as in my comment to Darby below. $\endgroup$
    – open
    Apr 16 at 14:14
  • $\begingroup$ FYI, the name for what you are asking about is nuclear transmutation it. It happens in nuclear reactors and in high-energy physics experiments, and the fact that it happens in nuclear reactors is part of what makes nuclear engineering such a challenge. The engineer must cope with the fact that chemical and physical properties of the reactor fuel and the materials from which the reactor is built will change over time. $\endgroup$ Apr 16 at 14:15
  • $\begingroup$ Ok, so it's nuclear transmutation and not ionization. Thanks. The primary concern I have is that in all the equations I've seen for this type of reaction the product is not indicated to be a cation but rather an atom. The difference is important in some interests because an atom and an ion may not behave the same in an electric field for instance. $\endgroup$
    – open
    Apr 16 at 15:41

1 Answer 1


An element is defined by the number of protons in the nucleus; a change in the number of protons is a change in the element. The chemical characteristics are determined by the number of protons. Isotopes of an element have different number of neutrons, same number of protons. An ion will eventually capture electrons to become neutral.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks. I needed clarification because after googling on this a bit I was starting to get the impression that general consensus is that proton gain is not considered ionization but that only change in the number of electrons is. $\endgroup$
    – open
    Apr 16 at 14:12
  • $\begingroup$ Happy to help out! $\endgroup$
    – John Darby
    Apr 16 at 14:14

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