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Key experiment in nuclear physics

Tin-100, a doubly magic nucleus

A view of the experiment at the GSI from a perspective against the beam direction. The fragments are stopped at the center of a “hedgehog” of 105 liquid nitrogen-cooled gamma ray detectors, where the precise time point of the beta decay and the released decay energy are measured. Picture: Thomas Faestermann / TUM

Research news

A few minutes after the Big Bang the universe contained no other elements than hydrogen and helium. Physicists of the Technische Universität München (TUM), the Cluster of Excellence “Universe” and the Helmholtz Center for Heavy Ion Research (GSI) have now succeeded in producing tin-100, a very instable yet important element for understanding the formation of heavier elements. The researchers report on their results in the current edition of the scientific journal Nature.

A few minutes after the Big Bang the universe contained no other elements than hydrogen and helium. Physicists of the Technische Universität München (TUM), the Cluster of Excellence “Universe” and the Helmholtz Center for Heavy Ion Research (GSI) have now succeeded in producing tin-100, a very instable yet important element for understanding the formation of heavier elements. The researchers report on their results in the current edition of the scientific journal Nature.

Stable tin, as we know it, comprises 112 nuclear particles – 50 protons and 62 neutrons. The neutrons act as a kind of buffer between the electrically repelling protons and prevent normal tin from decaying. According to the shell model of nuclear physics, 50 is a “magic number” that gives rise to special properties. Tin-100, with 50 protons and 50 neutrons, is “doubly magic,” making it particularly interesting for nuclear physicists.