Deanna Csomo McCool | February 19, 2020
Nuclei can be round, like a soccer ball, or oblong, like a football. Others are slightly oblong but misshapen, like a potato. One of the only two ways to observe the third shape, rarely encountered, is when the nucleus wobbles like a lopsided top.
Researchers had previously seen these rare triaxial nuclei wobble on their shorter, transverse axes. But University of Notre Dame researchers and collaborators recently discovered that the nuclei also wobble on their intermediate axes. Their research, “Longitudinal Wobbling Motion in 187Au,” was published recently in the premier physics journal, Physical Review Letters.
The work took four to five days to complete once the team assembled at Argonne National Laboratory, in Illinois. Notre Dame physics graduate student, Nirupama Sensharma, who was the first author on the paper, spent about a year analyzing the data. Her work was highlighted recently in Nature.
Sensharma worked with Umesh Garg, professor in the Department of Physics, to develop an experiment using an isotope of gold to find out if the nucleus wobbled as predicted in a theoretical model developed by Stefan Frauendorf, also a professor in the Department of Physics. Frauendorf had hypothesized that triaxial nuclei would have two different types of wobbling motion.
The fundamental research, which Garg said does not have an immediate application for technology, was chosen as an editor’s selection in the journal. It was also highlighted as a synopsis in Physics, the online magazine of the American Physical Society. Papers selected for coverage must include an experimental breakthrough, or provide a theory with a new perspective, among other criteria.
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