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Any of various processes in which a system of particles absorbs an extra particle. There are several examples in atomic and nuclear physics. For instance, a positive ion may capture an electron to give a neutral atom or molecule. Similarly, a neutral atom or molecule capturing an electron becomes a negative ion. An atomic nucleus may capture a neutron to produce a different (often unstable) nucleus. Another type of nuclear capture is the process in which the nucleus of an atom absorbs an electron from the innermost orbit (the K shell) to transform into a different nucleus. In this process (called K capture) the atom is left in an excited state and generally decays by emission of an X-ray photon.

Radiative capture is any such process in which the capture results in an excited state that decays by emission of photons. A common example is neutron capture to yield an excited nucleus, which decays by emission of a gamma ray.

Subjects: Chemistry — Physics.


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