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 European XFEL prepares for user operation: Researchers can hand in first proposals for experiments
24.01.2017 | European XFEL GmbH

nachricht PPPL physicist uncovers clues to mechanism behind magnetic reconnection
24.01.2017 | DOE/Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

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: Quantum optical sensor for the first time tested in space – with a laser system from Berlin

For the first time ever, a cloud of ultra-cold atoms has been successfully created in space on board of a sounding rocket. The MAIUS mission demonstrates that quantum optical sensors can be operated even in harsh environments like space – a prerequi-site for finding answers to the most challenging questions of fundamental physics and an important innovation driver for everyday applications.

According to Albert Einstein's Equivalence Principle, all bodies are accelerated at the same rate by the Earth's gravity, regardless of their properties. This...

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Arctic melt ponds form when meltwater clogs ice pores

24.01.2017 | Earth Sciences

Synthetic nanoparticles achieve the complexity of protein molecules

24.01.2017 | Life Sciences

PPPL physicist uncovers clues to mechanism behind magnetic reconnection

24.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>