Feeds

Scientists brew up 'missing link' isotope

Doubly magic nickel-78

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

The Power of One Infographic

Scientists at Michigan State University have succeeded in recreating an isotope of nickel they say is a "missing link" in the process by which precious metals are formed in supernovae.

German and US boffins working at the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory (NSCL) fired atoms of a stable isotpe of krypton at a beryllium plate. In the process, they were able to create 11 nickel-78 (Ni-78) atoms - a highly unstable isotope consisting of 28 protons and 50 neutrons - and determine its life at just 110 milliseconds.

Ni-78 does not exist in nature, SpaceDaily.com reports, but the NSCL team says it must have existed as a key step in the "progressive decay of isotopes [resulting] in the synthesis of precious metals in exploding stars".

Hendrik Schatz, an associate professor of physics at the NSCL, explained: "Every gold atom you find in the gold on your ring, every one of those atoms has gone through such a process. We've now seen a link in the chain - one that controlled everything."

The NSCL team is also fired up about Ni-78's "doubly magic" properties, ie, "the number of protons and number of neutrons are in a subatomically tidy package that makes it easier to study". Doctoral student Paul Hosmer clarified: "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."

Professor Schatz will present the NSCL findings at an American Physical Society meeting in Tampa, Florida, on Sunday. ®

Related stories

Physicists freeze light, propose optical CPUs
The truth about tritium
Air is heavier than we thought, admit scientists

Eight steps to building an HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists
Researchers, advocates, health workers among those on shot-down plane
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
Mwa-ha-ha-ha! Eccentric billionaire Musk gets his PRIVATE SPACEPORT
In the Lone Star State, perhaps appropriately enough
MARS NEEDS OCEANS to support life - and so do exoplanets
Just being in the Goldilocks zone doesn't mean there'll be anyone to eat the porridge
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Diary note: Pluto's close-up is a year from … now!
New Horizons is less than a year from the dwarf planet
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
prev story

Whitepapers

Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.