Mercurial nuclei get back in shape

Posted on 2 October 2018

An international team including four York physicists have published a new research paper in Nature Physics.

The paper explores how experiment and theory go hand in hand when trying to understand variable shapes of exotic isotopes of mercury. The nuclei of these elemental atoms assume different shapes depending on the number of neutrons they contain, and through careful  examination of the nuclear structure of exotic mercury isotopes, the multi-national research team have been able to explain the microscopic origins of this effect.

This team of scientists, including York’s Professor Andrei Andreyev, Dr James Cubiss, Professor Jacek Dobaczewski and Dr Alessandro Pastore, carried out groundbreaking experimental and theoretical studies of nuclear shapes. Using one of the world’s most powerful computers, the K supercomputer in Kobe, Japan, the authors performed the largest and most ambitious nuclear shell model calculation to date. Theoretical analyses were then carried out at York, using state of the art nuclear DFT techniques.

The research on mercury nuclei has a long history, dating back over 40 years, and was first performed at CERN’s ISOLDE facility through laser spectroscopy. It was not until recently that experimenters could push these measurements to the extremes of the nuclear chart, and conclude the work by fully examining this “shapeshifting” region.

The paper is published in Nature Physics, and is available online.