Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory Office of Science NEWTON's Homepage NEWTON's Homepage
NEWTON, Ask A Scientist!
NEWTON Home Page NEWTON Teachers Visit Our Archives Ask A Question How To Ask A Question Question of the Week Our Expert Scientists Volunteer at NEWTON! Frequently Asked Questions Referencing NEWTON About NEWTON About Ask A Scientist Education At Argonne Crushed Protons
Name: N/A
Status: N/A
Age: N/A
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: N/A

Can protons be crushed into smaller pieces?

Well, how about "split", "dismantled", or "smashed"? I think the general idea behind the question is clear! Protons are used in "atom-smashers" which collide the protons with other particles at very high energies. From these experiments it is pretty clear that the proton consists of 3 smaller particles all packed together, but it is not possible to separate those quarks one at a time. However, they can be rearranged in the collision to produce new particles... If you meant by crushing just applying a lot of pressure, the pressure that would be needed is far beyond anything we can reach here on earth, in order to have any perceptible effect. However, neutron stars do reach that kind of pressure - what they do is combine the electrons that used to be part of atoms in the star with the protons to form neutrons, which then can be compressed to very high pressure and density. But that is a different effect from the "smashing" of protons into smaller pieces.

Arthur Smith

Click here to return to the Physics Archives

NEWTON is an electronic community for Science, Math, and Computer Science K-12 Educators, sponsored and operated by Argonne National Laboratory's Educational Programs, Andrew Skipor, Ph.D., Head of Educational Programs.

For assistance with NEWTON contact a System Operator (, or at Argonne's Educational Programs

Educational Programs
Building 360
9700 S. Cass Ave.
Argonne, Illinois
60439-4845, USA
Update: June 2012
Weclome To Newton

Argonne National Laboratory