C14 Decay and Nitrogen Ion
Date: Winter 2011-2012
When carbon-14 decays to nitrogen it gains a proton, however this means that the nitrogen atom is "short" one electron so it has more protons than electrons. Does the new nitrogen atom stay as an ion and if not where does it get the "extra" electron?
Charge is conserved in all interactions. When the neutron decays, it produces an electron and an antineutrino as well as a proton. The electron produced usually is moving so fast that it escapes, but electrons can shuffle around. Generally a lot of free radicals are created.
Richard E. Barrans Jr., Ph.D., M.Ed.
Department of Physics and Astronomy
University of Wyoming
I do not know if I have ever seen an answer to this question. As
you know, however, this decay does not occur in a vacuum, it occurs
with all kinds of other substances around it. Further, the beta
particle that is emitted is--for all practical purposes--as
electron. Conceivably, the beta particle (electron) could be
entrapped by neighboring newly-formed nitrogens.
Ray Tedder, NBCT
You are correct in stating that as C-14 become N-14 there is a
transmutation of a neutron to a proton and we should therefore
expect that N-14 is positively charged. However, from an empirical
point of view we cannot capture a single C-14 becoming N-14. We can
only observe a mass of C-14 and realize that there is a spontaneous
decay in the sample to N-14. We can then look at the N-14 to see if
it is neutral or not. When we do this we find very little (if any)
positively charge N-14. Now, is it because the N-14 is produced as a
neutral atom, is produced as a positively charged N-14 which
captures the electron that is also produced in the same beta decay,
or the positive N-14 is produced and then later captures free
electrons ... hard to say, because all we can observe is the mass of
sample, not individual C-14's and N-14's.
Greg (Roberto Gregorius)
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Update: June 2012