Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

The atomic nucleus: Fissile liquid or molecule of life?

Date:
July 30, 2012
Source:
CNRS (Délégation Paris Michel-Ange)
Summary:
A new view of the nucleus that unifies its liquid and molecule-like aspects has now been put forward.  By making an analogy with neutron stars, the researchers have for the first time demonstrated one of the necessary conditions for the formation of molecule-like behavior within the atomic nucleus. Such molecule-like behavior makes it possible to understand the synthesis of elements that are key to the appearance of life.

IPN Orsay Artist's impression showing the molecular states of the nucleus in a liquid.
Credit: © Luc Petizon

A new view of the nucleus that unifies its liquid and molecule-like aspects has been put forward by a team from the Institut de Physique Nucléaire d'Orsay (Université Paris-Sud/CNRS) and from CEA (the French Atomic Energy Commission), in collaboration with the University of Zagreb. By making an analogy with neutron stars[1], the researchers have for the first time demonstrated one of the necessary conditions for the formation of molecule-like behavior within the atomic nucleus. Such molecule-like behavior makes it possible to understand the synthesis of elements that are key to the appearance of life.

Related Articles


The work is published in Nature dated 19 July 2012.

The atomic nucleus is generally described as a drop of quantum liquid with a diameter of around a million billionth of a meter. In particular, such liquid-like behavior explains nuclear fission, and applies especially to heavy nuclei, i.e. nuclei that contain a large number of nucleons (neutrons and protons). On the other hand, light nuclei[2] can behave like tiny 'molecules', or clusters, made up of neutrons and protons within the nucleus. This molecular aspect makes it possible to understand the stellar synthesis of carbon-12 and other heavier elements necessary for the appearance of life[3].

Until now, both the 'molecule-nucleus' and the 'liquid-nucleus' views coexisted. Now, a team from the Institut de Physique Nucléaire d'Orsay (Université Paris-Sud/CNRS) and from CEA (the French Atomic Energy Commission), in collaboration with the University of Zagreb, proposes a unified view of these two aspects. By solving quantum physics equations on the scale of the nucleus (in particular the Schrödinger equation), the researchers have demonstrated that, although a light nucleus can show molecule-like behavior (tending towards the crystalline state), heavier nuclei take on a liquid-like behavior.

To establish this new theory, the physicists took inspiration from neutron stars1. The deeper you go inside a neutron star, the more you pass from a crystalline medium to a liquid medium. Thanks to this analogy, the physicists identified a mechanism of transition from the liquid to the crystalline state in the nucleus. When the interactions between neutrons and protons are not strong enough to fix them within the nucleus, the latter is in a quantum-liquid type state where protons and neutrons are delocalized. Conversely, in a crystalline state, neutrons and protons are fixed at regular intervals within the nucleus. The nuclear molecule is interpreted as being an intermediate state between a quantum liquid and a crystal. In the long term, the aim is to attain a unified understanding of the various states of the nucleus.

[1] The core of a massive star that collapses during a supernova explosion becomes so dense that protons and neutrons combine, forming neutrons. The resulting body becomes a kind of giant atomic nucleus made up mostly of neutrons, which is what gives it its name.

[2] Such as oxygen-16 (16O), which contains 8 neutrons and 8 protons.

[3] For instance, the Hoyle state of carbon-12, key to nucleosynthesis, is described as a nuclear molecule made up of three alpha particles. An alpha particle is a cluster of two neutrons and two protons.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by CNRS (Délégation Paris Michel-Ange). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. J.-P. Ebran, E. Khan, T. Nikšić, D. Vretenar. How atomic nuclei cluster. Nature, 2012; 487 (7407): 341 DOI: 10.1038/nature11246

Cite This Page:

CNRS (Délégation Paris Michel-Ange). "The atomic nucleus: Fissile liquid or molecule of life?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 July 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120730094907.htm>.
CNRS (Délégation Paris Michel-Ange). (2012, July 30). The atomic nucleus: Fissile liquid or molecule of life?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 22, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120730094907.htm
CNRS (Délégation Paris Michel-Ange). "The atomic nucleus: Fissile liquid or molecule of life?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120730094907.htm (accessed April 22, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Space & Time News

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Hubble Marks 25th Birthday as Successor Readies for Launch

Hubble Marks 25th Birthday as Successor Readies for Launch

AFP (Apr. 20, 2015) — With the Hubble Space Telescope celebrating its 25th anniversary on April 24, 2015, AFPTV takes a look at Hubble&apos;s control room and gets a sneak peek inside the space center assembling the James Webb Telescope - Hubble&apos;s successor. Duration: 02:52 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Rocket Science: Building And Testing The Space Launch System

Rocket Science: Building And Testing The Space Launch System

Newsy (Apr. 19, 2015) — NASA&apos;s new rocket system will eventually be the most powerful ever built by man, but there are a lot of moving parts to test first. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
2015 NASA Rover Challenge Underway in Alabama

2015 NASA Rover Challenge Underway in Alabama

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Apr. 19, 2015) — Teams face an uphill battle for fastest rover in this year&apos;s NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge in Alabama. Julie Noce reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
International Space Station Captures SpaceX Dragon Spacecraft

International Space Station Captures SpaceX Dragon Spacecraft

Reuters - News Video Online (Apr. 17, 2015) — SpaceX&apos;s Dragon spacecraft reaches the International Space Station and is successfully captured by the station&apos;s robotic arm. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
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