Aug 16, 2023

Long-lived quantum state points the way to solving a mystery in radioactive nuclei

Posted by in category: quantum physics

Timothy Gray of the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory led a study that may have revealed an unexpected change in the shape of an atomic nucleus. The surprise finding could affect our understanding of what holds nuclei together, how protons and neutrons interact and how elements form.

“We used radioactive beams of excited sodium-32 nuclei to test our understanding of nuclear shapes far from stability and found an unexpected result that raises questions about how nuclear shapes evolve,” said Gray, a nuclear physicist. The results are published in Physical Review Letters.

The shapes and energies of atomic nuclei can shift over time between different configurations. Typically, nuclei live as quantum entities that have either spherical or deformed shapes. The former look like basketballs, and the latter resemble American footballs.

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