In creating five new isotopes, an international research team working at the Rare Isotope Beams, or FRIB, facility at Michigan State University brought the stars closer to Earth.

The isotopes — known as thulium-182, thiolium-183, ytterbium-186, ytterbium-187 and lutetium-190 — were reported in the journal Feb. 15. Physical examination letters.

These represent the first batch of new isotopes produced at FRIB, a user facility for the US Department of Energy’s Office of Science, or DOE-SC, to support the mission of the DOE-SC Office of Nuclear Physics. Is. The new isotopes show that the FRIB is close to creating nuclear patterns that currently only exist when superdense celestial bodies known as neutron stars collide.

“This is the exciting part,” said Alexandra Gade, professor of physics at FRIB and MSU’s Department of Physics and Astronomy and scientific director of FRIB. “We believe we can get closer to the cores that are important for astrophysics.”

Gade is also a co-sponsor of the project, which was led by FRIB senior research physicist Oleg Tarasov.

The research team includes a group based at FRIB and MSU, with colleagues from South Korea’s Institute for Basic Science and Japan’s RIKEN, an acronym that translates to Institute of Physical and Chemical Research.

“This is probably the first time these isotopes have been found on Earth,” said Bradley Sherrill, University Distinguished Professor in MSU’s College of Natural Science and head of the Advanced Rare Isotope Separator Department at FRIB.

To explain what “advanced” means in this context, Sherrill said the researchers used FRIB’s state-of-the-art instruments to detect just a few individual particles of the new isotope to confirm its existence and identity. Required.

Now that researchers know how to make these new isotopes, they can begin making them in large quantities to perform experiments never before possible. The researchers are also eager to follow the path they have created to create new isotopes that are even more abundant than those found in stars.

Sherrill said, “I like to compare it to traveling. We’re looking forward to going somewhere we’ve never been before and that’s the first step.” “We’ve left home and we’re starting to explore.”

Almost star stuff

Our Sun is a cosmic nuclear factory. It is powerful enough to take the cores of two hydrogen atoms, or nuclei, and fuse them into a helium nucleus.

Hydrogen and helium are the first and lightest entries on the periodic table of elements. Reaching the heavy elements on the table requires an environment even more extreme than that found in the Sun.

Scientists speculate that elements like gold — about 200 times more abundant than hydrogen — are created when two neutron stars collide.

Neutron stars are the leftover cores of exploding stars that were originally much more massive than our Sun, but not massive enough to become black holes in their final processes. Although they are not black holes, neutron stars still crush massive mass into a very small size.

“They’re about the size of Lansing at the mass of our Sun,” Sherrill said. “It’s not certain, but people think that all the gold on Earth was formed in neutron star collisions.”

By creating isotopes present at the site of a neutron star collision, scientists can better explore and understand the processes involved in creating these heavy elements.

The five new isotopes aren’t part of that atmosphere, but they’re the closest scientists have gotten to that particular region — and the prospect of finally getting there is great.

To create the new isotopes, the team sent a beam of platinum ions into a carbon target. The beam current divided by the state of charge was 50 nanoamps. Since these experiments were conducted, FRIB has already increased its beam power to 350 nanoamps and plans to reach 15,000 nanoamps.

In the meantime, the new isotopes are offering new opportunities in themselves and for the nuclear research community to step into the unknown.

“It’s not a big surprise that these isotopes exist, but now that we have them, we have colleagues who will be very interested in what we can measure next,” Ged said. ” “I’m already starting to think about what we can do next in terms of measuring their half-lives, their masses and other properties.”

Researching quantities in isotopes that have never been available before will help inform and improve our understanding of basic nuclear science.

“There’s a lot more to know,” Sherrill said. “And we’re on our way.”