Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New Isotope Gives A Glimpse Of The Origins Of Precious Metals

Date:
April 16, 2005
Source:
Michigan State University
Summary:
The beginnings of precious metals like gold can be traced to the blink of an eye in an exploding star billions of years ago, and scientists at the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory at Michigan State University have been able to scrutinize a crucial step in that process. By reproducing the processes inside supernovas, scientists have resurrected an isotope of nickel that no longer exists in nature, but is an important link in the birth of the elements.

EAST LANSING, Mich. – The beginnings of precious metals like gold can be traced to the blink of an eye in an exploding star billions of years ago, and scientists at the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory (NSCL) at Michigan State University have been able to scrutinize a crucial step in that process.

By reproducing the processes inside supernovas in a laboratory, scientists have resurrected an isotope of nickel – one that no longer exists in nature, but is an important link in the birth of the elements.

“Every gold atom you find in the gold on your ring, every one of those atoms has gone through such a process,” said Hendrik Schatz, an associate professor of physics at the NSCL. “We’ve now seen a link in the chain – one that controlled everything.”

Schatz will discuss these findings at the American Physical Society meeting in Tampa, Fla., Sunday.

The isotope – nickel-78, or Ni-78 – shows up with the standard number of 28 protons, but with 50 neutrons. Because nickel must get rid of so many extra neutrons, this isotope is extremely unstable and does not exist in nature. But, Schatz explained, it did exist briefly in the chain of events that evolved into the elements.

A collaboration of scientists from the United States and Germany at the NSCL recreated Ni-78 by whirling around a stable isotope of krypton gas until it reached high speeds and then firing it into a plate of beryllium metal. Because the NSCL is the nation’s premier rare isotope accelerator, it’s capable of shooting 100 billion krypton atoms a second. Even then, Ni-78 only shows up about twice a day. It would take less powerful accelerators years to run this sort of an experiment, Schatz explained.

Ni-78 only exists for 110 milliseconds – that’s a 10th of a second. Researchers at MSU haven’t been the first to find Ni-78, but they’ve produced 11 occurrences of the isotopes, enough to finally derive its life span, said Paul Hosmer, a doctoral candidate working on the project. That’s always been a missing piece of the puzzle, since the progressive decay of isotopes results in the synthesis of precious metals in exploding stars.

Ni-78 has been found to be considerably quicker to decay – up to three times quicker. That changes the way scientists construct models of how elements were built before the Earth was formed some 4.5 billion years ago.

Unlocking the secrets of Ni-78 is especially exciting to scientists because of a design quirk. Ni-78 is what researchers call “doubly magic.” That means that its number of protons and number of neutrons are in a subatomically tidy package that makes it easier to study.

Hosmer said it’s like studying a bunch of cats and dogs. The groups are a lot easier to keep track of if they’re in a pen. That, basically, is what being doubly magic is – an isotope with the protons and neutrons in defined pens. The 28 protons and 50 neutrons are more stable and less reactive when they’re penned up.

The work is supported by the National Science Foundation through grants PHY 0110253 and PHY 0216783.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Michigan State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Michigan State University. "New Isotope Gives A Glimpse Of The Origins Of Precious Metals." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 April 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/04/050415204304.htm>.
Michigan State University. (2005, April 16). New Isotope Gives A Glimpse Of The Origins Of Precious Metals. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/04/050415204304.htm
Michigan State University. "New Isotope Gives A Glimpse Of The Origins Of Precious Metals." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/04/050415204304.htm (accessed October 22, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Thanks, Marty McFly! Hoverboards Could Be Coming In 2015

Thanks, Marty McFly! Hoverboards Could Be Coming In 2015

Newsy (Oct. 21, 2014) If you've ever watched "Back to the Future Part II" and wanted to get your hands on a hoverboard, well, you might soon be in luck. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Robots to Fly Planes Where Humans Can't

Robots to Fly Planes Where Humans Can't

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 21, 2014) Researchers in South Korea are developing a robotic pilot that could potentially replace humans in the cockpit. Unlike drones and autopilot programs which are configured for specific aircraft, the robots' humanoid design will allow it to fly any type of plane with no additional sensors. Ben Gruber reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Graphene Paint Offers Rust-Free Future

Graphene Paint Offers Rust-Free Future

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 21, 2014) British scientists have developed a prototype graphene paint that can make coatings which are resistant to liquids, gases, and chemicals. The team says the paint could have a variety of uses, from stopping ships rusting to keeping food fresher for longer. Jim Drury reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
China Airlines Swanky New Plane

China Airlines Swanky New Plane

Buzz60 (Oct. 21, 2014) China Airlines debuted their new Boeing 777, and it's more like a swanky hotel bar than an airplane. Enjoy high-tea, a coffee bar, and a full service bar with cocktails and spirits, and lie-flat in your reclining seats. Sean Dowling (@SeanDowlingTV) has the details. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins