Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New isotope gives a glimpse of the origins of precious metals

18.04.2005


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.

Hendrik Schatz | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.msu.edu

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht CCNY physicists master unexplored electron property
26.07.2017 | City College of New York

nachricht Large, distant comets more common than previously thought
26.07.2017 | University of Maryland

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Carbon Nanotubes Turn Electrical Current into Light-emitting Quasi-particles

Strong light-matter coupling in these semiconducting tubes may hold the key to electrically pumped lasers

Light-matter quasi-particles can be generated electrically in semiconducting carbon nanotubes. Material scientists and physicists from Heidelberg University...

Im Focus: Flexible proximity sensor creates smart surfaces

Fraunhofer IPA has developed a proximity sensor made from silicone and carbon nanotubes (CNT) which detects objects and determines their position. The materials and printing process used mean that the sensor is extremely flexible, economical and can be used for large surfaces. Industry and research partners can use and further develop this innovation straight away.

At first glance, the proximity sensor appears to be nothing special: a thin, elastic layer of silicone onto which black square surfaces are printed, but these...

Im Focus: 3-D scanning with water

3-D shape acquisition using water displacement as the shape sensor for the reconstruction of complex objects

A global team of computer scientists and engineers have developed an innovative technique that more completely reconstructs challenging 3D objects. An ancient...

Im Focus: Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information

Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.

For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...

Im Focus: The proton precisely weighted

What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.

To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

Closing the Sustainability Circle: Protection of Food with Biobased Materials

21.07.2017 | Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

CCNY physicists master unexplored electron property

26.07.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Molecular microscopy illuminates molecular motor motion

26.07.2017 | Life Sciences

Large-Mouthed Fish Was Top Predator After Mass Extinction

26.07.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>