Advanced computational methods and supporting experiments, including work performed at the Department of Energys Oak Ridge National Laboratory, are giving scientists a better understanding of the nature and stability of superheavy nuclei and the heaviest elements that lie beyond the borders of the periodic table.
Nature magazine on Thursday published a review article that describes collaborative work by researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the University of Tennessee and researchers at universities in Poland and Belgium. The authors describe the behavior of super-heavy nuclei -- those chock full of protons and neutrons to the point that they tax the physical forces that hold them together. "Predicting the stabilities of extremely heavy nuclei has been a long-term goal of nuclear scientists. This research represents the very best we can do at predicting the structure of these species," said Witold Nazarewicz, a researcher in ORNLs Physics Division and UTs Department of Physics and Astronomy.
The paper describes how the protons and neutrons of extremely heavy nuclei arrange into shapes that can be oblong or flat. That shape can help determine the stability or life of the nucleus, which is, in turn, a factor in determining if the atomic species can even exist or be synthetically created. Because of strong electrostatic repulsion, some of these superheavy nuclei may have extremely short lifetimes. "A typical lifetime of a nucleus is in the extremely heavy range of a millisecond," said Nazarewicz.
Bill Cabage | EurekAlert!
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