Protons: Definition, Charge & Mass

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  • 0:04 Defintion of Protons
  • 1:04 Proton Charge
  • 1:50 Mass
  • 2:30 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jeff Fennell

Jeff has a master's in engineering and has taught Earth science both domestically and internationally.

Protons can be found in the nucleus of every atom. While originally it had been thought that protons were a fundamental particle, recent research has shown that protons are made of quarks. This lesson will cover the properties of the proton.

Definition of Protons

A proton is a subatomic particle with a positive electric charge. Protons are found in the nucleus of every atom. In fact, the number of protons in each atom is its atomic number.

Until recently, the proton was considered a fundamental particle. However, new technologies have led to the discovery that the proton is actually composed of smaller particles called quarks. A quark is a fundamental particle of matter that only recently has been discovered. There are six known types of quarks: up, down, strange, charm, top and bottom. A proton is composed of two up quarks and one down quark.

A proton can be formed as the result of an unstable neutron. After about 900 seconds away from a nucleus, a neutron will break down radioactively into a proton, electron and an anti-neutrino. Unlike a neutron, a free proton is stable. When free protons interact with each other, they form hydrogen molecules. Our sun, along with most other stars in the universe, are primarily composed of hydrogen.

Proton Charge

Protons have a charge of +1 elementary charge. An elementary charge is denoted by the letter 'e' and was originated in 1874 by George Stoney. While a proton has a charge of +1, or 1e, an electron has a charge of -1, or -e, and a neutron has no charge, or 0e.

1 elementary charge is equal to:

  • 1.602 x 10^-19 coulombs
  • 4.80320425*10^-10 statcoulombs

A coulomb is a type of unit of electric charge and is equivalent of one ampere being steadily transported per one second. A statcoulomb is a unit of electric charge in the centimeter-gram-second system of units (cgs) and Gaussian units.

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