Creating superheavy elements
Creating superheavy elements During the past 20 years physicists around the world have been engaged in the task of producing superheavy elements. At the Institute for Heavy-Ion Research in Darmstadt the authors have met with some success, synthesizing the nuclei of elements 107, 108 and 109. These nuclei lie beyond the 106-proton threshold that marked the limits of previous techniques for creating and identifying heavy elements. Experimental mass measurements, followed up by theory, show that the new elements owe their stability to the microscopic arrangement of their protons and neutrons rather than the macroscopic properties that stabilize lighter nuclei. On the other hand the authors have met with problems that have thus far prevented them from reaching the goals set in the late 1960's, when elements up to 114 seemed within reach. Working to overcome obstacles to further progress, however, has deepened our understanding of nuclear structure and of the dynamics of fusion reactions between nuclei. Nucleosynthesis has come a long way from the earliest years when elements not found in nature were created in nuclear reactors. Physicists have employed ever-heavier projectiles to bombard target atoms; the latest development is cold fusion, which masses and bombardment energies are carefully chosen to minimize the more »
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