We’re all familiar with the periodic table of elements. There aren’t so many of them and at the last count we’re at 118 experimentally identified elements. You can probably name a good number of them.
But that isn’t the whole story, as with those few elements come thousands of isotopes, varying in stability, nuclear mass and properties.
Scientists from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) have been exploring these unusual nuclei and have added five more to the table: U 218, Np 219, Bk 233, Am 223 and Am 229. Each is very unstable, generally lasting fractions of a second. According to the authors, these are particularly interesting due to the very low number of neutrons present, and raise new questions about our understanding of nuclear structure.
LLNL has a long history of discovery in nuclear physics, as we recently discussed with co-author Sigurd Hoffman. We spoke him after his recent JPhysG article on super-heavy nuclei, where he describes the hunt for the discovery of new elements.
So congratulations to the LLNL team for once again proving that there is more to matter than meets the eye, and we look forward to seeing new exotic nuclear physics from the team.
Source: LLNL press release
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Title image: Contour map of the differences between the calculated binding energies and the experimental ones for 3255 nuclei as a function of neutron number and proton number. Na Na Ma et al 2015 J. Phys. G: Nucl. Part. Phys. 42 095107. Copyright IOP Publishing 2015.