A neutron by definition is the subatomic particle that has no net electric charge and its mass is higher than that of a proton. All the atoms except hydrogen have their nucleus that is made up of protons and neutrons. All together, they are known as nucleons. The proton number in a nucleus is called the atomic number and is the main determinant of the type an element will be. On the other hand, the number of neutrons in an atom make the neutron number and is also the main determinant of the isotope of an element.
Stable neutrons in a nucleus are the ones which are bound to the nuclei while the unstable ones are those that are free. Free neutrons are the ones that undergo beta decay. They have such a short lifespan of less than 15 minutes. Free neutrons are brought about by nuclear fusion and fission. The neutron is mainly used in nuclear power production. Neutrons normally decay into protons, electrons and electron antineutrino.
Neutrons can decay without any variations in the baryon number by having one of the quarks change through interacting weakly. A neutron has three quarks. Two of the quarks are down quarks with a negative charge and the one remaining is an up quark with a positive charge. The decomposition that one down quark undergoes into an up quark can only be done through the release of a W boson. Through this decomposition, the neutron is broken down into a proton that has two up and one down quark, an antineutrino and an electron.
On the outside of the nucleus, the free neutrons have a level of instability and their life is approximately 14.75 seconds. From this figure we can conclude that the half-life of this process is approximately 10.15 seconds. Neutrons which are free decompose through release of an electron and an electro antineutrino so as to form a proton. The whole process is known as beta decay. Nonetheless, in the inside of a nucleus, protons may also change to neutrons through inverse beta decay. Another important fact to note about neutrons is that they have their own magnetic moments. For a neutron, its magnetic moment is non zero which is quite unlike a neutral particle. This shows a neutron is an example of a composite particle. Neutrons are usually used in radiation processes.
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