Using existing high-tech approaches, a team of scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) has recreated the exotic magnesium form known as magnesium-40 and uncovered new information

It was just over a decade ago when scientists jammed extra neutrons into the nuclei of magnesium atoms to push them toward — and possibly to the maximum limit of their constitution. Currently, an international team led by scientists at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) has recreated magnesium-40, this exotic nuclear system and shed light on its Magnesium-40 sits at a dangerous intersection because a lot of people are curious about how it really looks,” said Heather Crawford, a scientist in the Nuclear Science Division at Berkeley Lab and lead author of this study published online Feb. 28. A paper on this subject appeared in Physical Review Letters on July 7. The number of protons (which have a positive electric charge) in the nucleus of an element determines that element’s atomic number – where it sits on the periodic table – but the number of neutrons (which do not have an electric charge) can vary. Nature’s most stable form of magnesium atom contains 12 protons, 12 neutrons, and 12 electrons (non-positive charges), creating a stable, chemically reactive atom.

It is known as an isotope when two atoms of the same element have different neutron counts. It appears that the magnesium-40 (Mg-40) isotope studied by the researchers has 28 neutrons, possibly the maximum number of neutrons an atom of magnesium can have. There is a “neutron drip line” for the number of neutrons that can exist in a nucleus of a given element — if you attempt to add another neutron when it has already been reached, the additional neutron will immediately “drip” out. He reiterated, “It is extremely neutron-rich.” It is not clear if the Mg-40 is at the drip line, but it is certain to be very near the drip line. The shape and structure of nuclei near the drip line is particularly interesting to researchers because it can show them how nuclei behave at extremes of reality, which are described in fundamental terms by the drip line. It has always been interesting to me, whenever we get so close to the drip line, to ask What have we learned from this experience? Researchers at Berkeley Lab’s Nuclear Science Division analyzed the arrangement of neutrons and protons in the atoms and asked the question, “Has the atom’s structure changed?” said co-author Paul Fallon. According to nuclear physics, one of its major aims is to understand the structure of an element, starting from the nucleus up to the drip line.

This understanding can inform theories about explosive processes such as the creation of heavy elements in star mergers and explosions, according to the author. The researchers carried out their experiments at RIKEN Nishina Center for Accelerator Based In the study, scientists combined the power of three cyclotrons — a kind of particle accelerator first pioneered by Berkeley Lab founder Ernest Lawrence in 1931 — to produce very-high-energy particle beams travelling at about 60 percent In this experiment, researchers struck a rotating disk made of several millimeters of carbon with a powerful beam of calcium-48, a stable isotope of calcium with a high number of protons (20) and neutrons (28). When an aluminum isotope known as aluminum-41 is produced by calcium-48 nuclei colliding with carbon nuclei, some of the calcium-48 nuclei also collide with carbon nuclei. These aluminum-41 atoms were gathered in the nuclear physics experiment and were then channeled to strike the C02 target on a centimeter-thick plastic sheet. As a result of the impact with this secondary target, a proton was knocked away from some aluminum-41 nuclei, creating magnesium-40 Researchers measured the gamma rays emitted in these interactions with the second target using a gamma-ray detector surrounded by magnets. Based on the measured gamma rays, researchers were able to determine the excited state of magnesium-40. Mg-40 is not the only isotope of magnesium to be measured. Mg-36 and Mg-38 were also measured for their excited states. According to Crawford, Mg-40 should have looked a lot like the lighter isotopes. However, it didn’t look like any of the lighter isotopes. New theories make sense of everything we see when something unusual has been observed. Since the theories now do not agree with what was observed in the experiments, new calculations are required to explain what is different in the structure of the Mg-40 nucleus. It is thought that the two added neutrons in Mg-40 may be buzzing around the core of the isotope rather than being incorporated into the shape exhibited by neighboring magnesium isotopes, according to Fallon. It must be confirmed by more detailed calculations, Crawford says. Crawford says that additional measurements and theoretical work on Mg-40, and nearby isotopes could support the idea of the shape of the Mg-40 nucleus, and help explain what has changed in its They have observed that the recent construction of the new DOE Office of Science User Facility from Michigan State University, coupled with the Gamma-Ray Energy Tracking Array (GRETA) being constructed at Berkeley Lab, will allow for the exploration of other elements in the region