Question Video: Identifying the Force That Binds Neutrons and Protons Together in the Atomic Nucleus | Nagwa Question Video: Identifying the Force That Binds Neutrons and Protons Together in the Atomic Nucleus | Nagwa

Question Video: Identifying the Force That Binds Neutrons and Protons Together in the Atomic Nucleus Chemistry • First Year of Secondary School

What is the name of the force that binds neutrons and protons together in the atomic nucleus?

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Video Transcript

What is the name of the force that binds neutrons and protons together in the atomic nucleus?

The atomic nucleus is made up of two types of particles: protons and neutrons. Protons are positively charged and neutrons are neutrally charged, so they have a charge of zero. Generally speaking, it is known that unlike charges attract, so positive and negative charges attract. It is also known that like charges repel, so two positive charges would repel each other and two negative charges would repel each other. The nucleus of an atom does not contain negative charges, only positive and neutral. The positive charges repel each other. This is called electrostatic repulsion.

As these positively charged species repel each other, you’d expect the nucleus to fall apart. But nuclei can be stable upwards of a billion years, which suggests that there must be an attractive force holding them together. We call this force the strong nuclear force. The strong nuclear force is defined as the attractive force that holds protons and neutrons together. In the diagram, this attractive force is shown to be between two neutrons and a proton and a neutron. The strong nuclear force which causes attraction is much stronger than the electrostatic force which causes repulsion in the nucleus. So the answer to the question “What is the name of the force that binds neutrons and protons together in the atomic nucleus?” is the strong nuclear force.

To check our answer, let’s think about the other fundamental forces. There are four fundamental forces: gravitational, strong, weak, and electromagnetic. Electrostatic and magnetic forces are a consequence of the electromagnetic force. We have already established that the electrostatic force causes repulsion within the nucleus, so it does not bind the neutrons and protons together. The gravitational force is responsible for governing the gravitational interactions between objects that have mass. It is a very weak force, and the magnitude of the force relates to the mass of the objects. So it has a large impact for bodies of large mass such as the Earth and the Moon. But it has very minimal impact on bodies of small mass, so the gravitational force is insignificant in the context of protons and neutrons.

The weak force, or the weak nuclear force, is responsible for different types of radioactive decay, but it is not responsible for binding protons and neutrons together. The magnetic force is responsible for the attractive and repulsive interactions between magnets. As with the electrostatic force, an attraction requires oppositely charged particles, but protons and neutrons are positively and neutrally charged. So the magnetic force is not responsible for binding protons and neutrons together. We have now ruled out the other fundamental forces, so we can be sure that the force that binds neutrons and protons together is the strong force, which is also known as the strong nuclear force.

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