We explain what protons are, how they were discovered, their properties, and characteristics. 

What is Proton?

The proton is a type of subatomic particle, that is, one of the minimum particles that make up the atom. It belongs to the fermion family and is endowed with a positive electric charge.

All matter is made of atoms, and these in turn of three types of particles, endowed with different electrical charges: electrons (negative charge), neutrons (neutral charge) and protons (positive charge).

For a long time it was thought that the proton was a fundamental type of particle, that is, that it could not be divided. However, today there is solid evidence to suggest that it is made up of quarks.

In any case, the proton is a stable subatomic particle, a counterpart of the electron. Unlike the latter, which orbits around the nucleus of the atom, protons are contained in the atomic nucleus together with neutrons, contributing most of the atomic mass.

Proton Discovery & Charge?

The proton was discovered by the British chemist and physicist Ernest Rutherford (1871-1937). After experimenting with nitrogen gas and detecting signs of what appeared to be hydrogen nuclei, Rutherford concluded that those nuclei were probably elemental particles.

Although this idea was true for a good part of the 20th century, from the 1970s scientific evidence showed that the proton was made up of other smaller particles called hadrons and mesons, which are, in fact, the truly elementary particles. since, until now, there is no evidence that they can be further divided or that they contain other structures inside.

Decades before Rutherford’s discovery, the German physicist Eugene Goldstein had proposed the idea of ​​the existence of protons. However, his ideas were not taken into account.

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Proton Characteristics

Protons have the following characteristics:

  • Protons have a positive charge of 1 (1.6 x 10 -19 Coulombs)
  • They are compound particles: protons are made up of smaller structures, called hadrons, which in turn are made up of quarks.
  • Protons have three quarks: two positively charged ( quarks up ) and one negatively charged ( quark down ).
  • The half-life of a proton is 10 35 years.
  • The proton has an antiparticle, called an antiproton, which is characterized by being negatively charged.
  • Protons and neutrons are found in the nucleus of the atom, which is why they are also called nucleons.
  • The mass of a proton is 1836 times greater than that of an electron.
  • The proton is 0.88 femtometers wide (10 -15 meters).