Authors: Peter Horst Rehm
It is well known that the electrostatic force has infinite range, but an unheralded property of this force is that as the distance between charges approaches zero the force increases without bound. Applied to the atomic nucleus, if a positive fractional charge in one nucleon (proton or neutron) can get close enough to a negative fractional charge in a neighboring nucleon, the attractive force between them would bind these nucleons in an electrostatic bond. For example, at a distance of 5% of a nucleon radius they will experience an attractive force of -25 kN. This is orders of magnitude stronger than the repulsive force between whole protons in the nucleus. Contrary to what is normally expected from the electrostatic force, such a bond would have a short range, shorter than the radius of a nucleon. Ironically, this charge-based bond would match the nuclear force’s characteristic of charge independence (affecting both neutrons and protons), because the required positive and negative fractional charges occur inside both neutrons and protons. This electrostatic bonding of fractional charges may therefore be an overlooked factor in the search for understanding the nuclear force and may shed light upon the structure of the nucleons and the atomic nucleus.
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