Scientists discover 45 new radioisotopes in 4 days

10-Jun-2010 - Japan

The world’s most powerful beam of heavy ions has enabled Japanese scientists and their international collaborators to uncover 45 new neutron-rich radioisotopes in a region of the nuclear chart never before explored. In only four days, a team of researchers at the Riken Nishina Center for Accelerator Based Science (RNC) have identified more new radioisotopes than the world’s scientists discover in an average year.

The RNC’s Radioactive Isotope Beam Factory (RIBF) was created to explore this world, boasting an RI beam intensity found nowhere else in the world. Accelerated to 70% the speed of light using RIBF’s Superconducting Ring Cyclotron, uranium-238 nuclei are smashed into beryllium and lead targets to produce an array of exotic radioisotopes believed to play a central role in the origins of elements in our universe.

To collect, separate and identify these isotopes, the researchers made use of BigRIPS, an RI beam separator whose powerful superconducting magnets have been carefully tuned to detect even the rarest phenomena under low-background conditions. Radioisotopes discovered using BigRIPS span the spectrum from manganese (Z = 25) to barium (Z = 56) and include highly sought-after nuclei such as palladium-128, whose “magic number” of neutrons grants it surprisingly high stability.

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