Hypothetical science question - removal of electrons?

Discussion in 'Science and Technology' started by Mojomoe, Aug 22, 2009.

  1. Mojomoe

    Mojomoe Commander Red Shirt

    Aug 15, 2002
    Hey all!

    My girlfriend is currently writing a sci-fi/fantasy novel, and came up with a really solid stumper of a theoretical science question.

    What would happen to an element, say a metal, if its electrons were stripped away (either in small quantities or in full) by some unseen force? Without corresponding electrons, would the other particles drop away, or are those unrelated? Would it degrade into lower-particle elements?

    I must admit, I'm shaky when it comes to chemistry - my focus was physics and theoretical astrophysics. But I figured you lot could easily answer such a question.

  2. Jadzia

    Jadzia on holiday Premium Member

    Apr 25, 2008
    You're describing an ion.

    When super hot, a gas will become a plasma, which is a state of matter where some proportion of it's electrons have been stripped out of orbit, but continue float among the positive nucleii, which are unaffected by temperature.

    The hotter the temperature, the more ionised the plasma gets, until ultimately, the nucleii exist without any bound electrons.
  3. Alpha_Geek

    Alpha_Geek Commodore Commodore

    Oct 10, 2003
    Central VA, US
    A similar hypothetical technology was mentioned on some Larry Niven works. The Slaver disentegrator suppressed the negative charge of electons of matter, causing it to rapidly break down.

    It was takes a step further in his works as well. A similar device was created that would suppress the positive charge of the protons. Again, matter would disentegrate.

    If used in conjunction, a current would flow between the aim points. A capital ship sized weapon of this type was used against the Kzinti on occupied Wunderland, causing what was commonly referred to as "The gash".

    The weapon is rememebered in Nivens future history as The Wunderland Treatymaker.

    At this time, all we have is plasma, however. :)
  4. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

    Apr 12, 2006
    Your Mom
    Stripping electrons from a metal would cause it to break down at the molecular level... but only if it happened in a vacuum. If you do this in the air or near other objects, the sudden loss of electrons in the metal would give it an EXTREME positive charge, and your object suddenly becomes a capacitor. In the most literal terms, the stripped metal would have a tendency to draw electrons from the surrounding air or anything else that touches it, like a doorknob charged with static electricity.

    In summary, one of two things happens: you either strip enough electrons that the metal breaks down and immediately turns into iron oxide or some other compound (bounding with other atoms to fill its empty valence shells) or it picks up such an extreme electrical charge that anything that comes close to it is suddenly zapped with several thousand watts of electricity.
  5. Mojomoe

    Mojomoe Commander Red Shirt

    Aug 15, 2002
    Thanks guys!

    These are all exactly what we needed!

    I knew I came to the right place.

  6. TIN_MAN

    TIN_MAN Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Aug 26, 2007
    Or it becomes a powder, like Orbitally Rearanged Monoatomic Elements (ormes), gold becomes a white powder this way.