Electron Capture Definition

Electron capture diagram
In one type of electron capture the nucleus absorbs the electron and an x-ray is released. In the Auger effect, the outer electron is ejected.

Pamputt, Wikimedia Commons

Electron capture is a type of radioactive decay where the nucleus of an atom absorbs a K or L shell electron and converts a proton into a neutron. This process reduces the atomic number by 1 and emits gamma radiation or an x-ray and a neutrino.
The decay scheme for electron capture is:
ZXA + e-ZYA-1 + ν + γ
Z is the atomic mass
A is atomic number
X is the parent element
Y is daughter element
e- is an electron
ν is a neutrino
γ is a gamma photon

Also Known As: EC, K-capture (if K shell electron is captured), L-capture (if L shell electron is captured)


Nitrogen-13 decays to Carbon-13 by electron capture.
13N7 + e-13C6 + ν + γ


Gian-Carlo Wick proposed the theory of electron capture in 1934. Luis Alvarez was the first to observe K-electron capture in the isotope vanadium-48. Alvarez reported his observation in Physical Review in 1937.

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Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "Electron Capture Definition." ThoughtCo, Aug. 29, 2020, thoughtco.com/definition-of-electron-capture-605071. Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. (2020, August 29). Electron Capture Definition. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/definition-of-electron-capture-605071 Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "Electron Capture Definition." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/definition-of-electron-capture-605071 (accessed March 22, 2023).