Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Physicists Peer Closely At Radioactive Decay Of A Rare Isotope At The Edge Of Nuclear Existence

Date:
November 15, 2007
Source:
Michigan State University
Summary:
Radioactivity, discovered more than 100 years ago and studied by physicists ever since, would seem to be a relatively closed subject in science. However, since the 1960s, the pursuit of at least one open question about how nuclei spontaneously eject various particles has continued to nag experimentalists, largely because of an inability to make precise measurements of fleeting, exotic nuclei. Physicists now describe a first-ever success in peering closely at radioactive decay of a rare isotope at the edge of nuclear existence.

Image of tracks of two protons emitted in the decay of iron-45; research appearing in the journal Physical Review Letters the week of Nov. 5, 2007, represents the first-ever description of the angular correlation between these protons.
Credit: Marek Pfutzner, Warsaw University

Radioactivity, discovered more than 100 years ago and studied by physicists ever since, would seem to be a relatively closed subject in science. However, since the 1960s, the pursuit of at least one open question about how nuclei spontaneously eject various particles has continued to nag experimentalists, largely because of an inability to make precise measurements of fleeting, exotic nuclei.

In a paper published in Physical Review Letters, an international collaboration of researchers, led by Marek Pfutzner, a physicist from Warsaw University in Poland, takes several steps toward an answer. The scientists describe a first-ever success in peering closely at radioactive decay of a rare iron isotope at the ragged edge of the known nuclear map. The tools used to achieve this result include a novel combination of advanced physics equipment and imaging technology that is found in most off-the-shelf digital cameras.

"We have proved in a direct and clear way that this extremely neutron-deficient nucleus disintegrates by the simultaneous emission of two protons," write the authors.

Pfutzner and his collaborators set out to better understand an exotic form of radioactivity -- two-proton emissions from iron-45, a nucleus with 26 protons and 19 neutrons. The stable form of iron that is most abundant on Earth has 26 protons and 30 neutrons. One possibility was that the iron-45 isotope might occasionally release an energetically linked two-proton pair, known as a diproton. Other possibilities were that the protons, whether emitted in quick succession or simultaneously, were unlinked.

The research was performed at Michigan State University's National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory (NSCL), but the key device was a detector built by Pfutzner and his Warsaw University colleagues. Though nicknamed "the cannon" because of its vague resemblance to some sort of space age military device, the detector didn't shoot anything but rather was the target for the beam of rare isotopes produced at the NSCL Coupled Cyclotron Facility.

The detector included a front-end gas chamber that accepted and then slowed rare isotopes traveling at half the speed of light. The back-end imaging system, built around a high-end digital camera with standard charge-coupled device, or CCD, technology, recorded ghostly images of trajectories of emitted protons from the decaying iron-45 nuclei shot into the cannon's mouth.

Analysis of these images ruled out the theorized diproton emission and indicated that the observed correlations between emitted protons were best described by a form of nuclear transformation known as three-body decay. A theory of this process had previously been described by Leonid Grigorenko, a physicist at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna, Russia and a coauthor of the paper.

"There is amazing agreement between the experiment and Grigorenko's theory, which takes into account the complex interplay between emitted pairs of protons and the daughter nucleus," said Robert Grzywacz, a physicist at the University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Laboratory and a coauthor of the paper.

Besides shedding light on a novel form of radioactive decay, the technique also could lead to additional discoveries about fleeting, rare isotopes studied at accelerator facilities such as NSCL and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. These isotopes may hold the key to understanding processes inside neutron stars and determining the limits of nuclear existence.

The experiment itself also harkens back to the early days of experimental nuclear physics in which visual information served as the raw data. Before the days of cameras, this information was usually captured by scientists hunched over a microscope counting, for example, tiny flashes as alpha particles struck a zinc sulfide screen under the lens.

"It's perhaps the first time in modern nuclear physics that fundamentally new information about radioactive decay was captured in a picture taken by a digital camera," said Andreas Stolz, NSCL assistant professor and a coauthor on the paper. "Usually, in nuclear physics experiments you have digitized data and several channels of information from electronics equipment, but never images."

This research was supported by the Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education, the U.S. National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy.


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. "Physicists Peer Closely At Radioactive Decay Of A Rare Isotope At The Edge Of Nuclear Existence." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 November 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/11/071108155357.htm>.
Michigan State University. (2007, November 15). Physicists Peer Closely At Radioactive Decay Of A Rare Isotope At The Edge Of Nuclear Existence. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/11/071108155357.htm
Michigan State University. "Physicists Peer Closely At Radioactive Decay Of A Rare Isotope At The Edge Of Nuclear Existence." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/11/071108155357.htm (accessed April 21, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Monday, April 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Why Did Nike Fire Most Of Its Nike FuelBand Team?

Why Did Nike Fire Most Of Its Nike FuelBand Team?

Newsy (Apr. 19, 2014) Nike fired most of its Digital Sport hardware team, the group behind Nike's FuelBand device. Could Apple or an overcrowded market be behind layoffs? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Small Reactors Could Be Future of Nuclear Energy

Small Reactors Could Be Future of Nuclear Energy

AP (Apr. 17, 2014) After the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the industry fell under intense scrutiny. Now, small underground nuclear power plants are being considered as the possible future of the nuclear energy. (April 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Horseless Carriage Introduced at NY Auto Show

Horseless Carriage Introduced at NY Auto Show

AP (Apr. 17, 2014) An electric car that proponents hope will replace horse-drawn carriages in New York City has also been revealed at the auto show. (Apr. 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Honda's New ASIMO Robot, More Human-Like Than Ever

Honda's New ASIMO Robot, More Human-Like Than Ever

AFP (Apr. 17, 2014) It walks and runs, even up and down stairs. It can open a bottle and serve a drink, and politely tries to shake hands with a stranger. Meet the latest ASIMO, Honda's humanoid robot. Duration: 00:54 Video provided by AFP
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:
from the past week

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