Neutron capture is a nuclear reaction in which an atomic nucleus and one or more neutrons collide and merge to form a heavier nucleus. Since neutrons have no electric charge, they can enter a nucleus more easily than positively charged protons, which are repelled electrostatically.
|Science with neutrons|
Neutron capture plays a significant role in the cosmic nucleosynthesis of heavy elements. In stars it can proceed in two ways: as a rapid process (r-process) or a slow process (s-process). Nuclei of masses greater than 56 cannot be formed by thermonuclear reactions (i.e., by nuclear fusion) but can be formed by neutron capture. Neutron capture on protons yields a line at 2.223 MeV predicted and commonly observed in solar flares.