Context: Recently, physicists in Japan discovered a previously unknown isotope of uranium, with atomic number 92 and mass number 241, i.e., uranium-241. Physicists were in search of a ‘magic number’.
What is a “Magic Number”?
In nuclear physics, “magic numbers” are specific numbers of protons or neutrons in atomic nuclei that correspond to Stable configurations. The heaviest known ‘magic’ nucleus is lead (82 protons). After this nucleus becomes unstable.
What are Isotopes?
Isotopes are atoms of the same element that have the same number of protons but differ in the number of neutrons in their nuclei. Isotopes of an element have nearly identical chemical properties but may differ in their physical properties such as density and radioactivity.
|Researchers accelerated uranium-238 nuclei into plutonium-198 nuclei at the KEK Isotope Separation System (KISS) using multinucleon transfer. The resulting nuclear fragments contained different isotopes.
|Time-of-flight mass spectrometry was used to measure the mass of each nucleus.
|Theoretical calculations suggest it could have a half-life of 40 minutes.
|This is the first such discovery since 1979.
|Refines our understanding of nuclear physics and has implications for designing nuclear power plants and models of exploding stars. Measuring the mass of uranium and its neighbourhood elements yields essential nuclear information to understand the synthesis of heavy elements in explosive astronomical events.
|This new approach using multinucleon transfer reaction and KISS is expected to lead to the discovery of more neutron-rich actinide nuclides, elucidating the stability of nuclides and the process of astronomical nucleosynthesis.
|Uranium (chemical symbol U) is a naturally occurring radioactive element.
|Isotopes of Uranium
|In its natural state, Uranium consists of three isotopes (U-234 (0.0057%), U-235 (0.72%) and U-238 (99.28%)). Other isotopes that cannot be found in natural uranium are U-232, U-233, U-236 and U-237.