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Name: Charles
Status: student
Grade: 9-12
Location: VA
Country: USA
Date: Summer 2011

How do you remove a neutron from a atom and what is the cheapest way?


Your question is really too vague to be answerable other than very hypothetically. The answer depends on what atom, and for what purpose you want to do this.

If your goal is simply to observe radioactive decay, then you are in luck. There are many atoms which are radioactive, and will naturally shed neutrons. However, radioactivity can be very dangerous, so I would strongly advise you to contact an expert before handling any radioactive material and be sure to protect yourself appropriately. Observing the decay requires special tools as well -- it is not "visible". Again, your first step here is to contact an expert.

If your goal is to have a purified sample of a specific isotope, you are better off starting with a mixed sample and separating out the isotope you desire. Depending on the element, this can be done chemically or physically, but is neither easy nor cheap.

If your goal is to use the neutrons for some experiment, then a neutron source is your best bet. However, those facilities required substantial scientific credentials and also come with substantial cost.

I should also say that based on the vagueness of your question, I am concerned that your pursuit might be based on a scientific misconception -- perhaps if you shared a little more detail on your objective I could be of more help.

Hope this helps,
Burr Zimmerman

You start with a radioactive isotope of an element, for example, 235U instead of 238U. Enrich and separate the 235U. If this is done well, you just re-invented the atomic bomb. I don't know of any "cheap way" to do this.

Vince Calder

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