Nuclear breakthrough achieved

May 02, 2002, vol. 24, no. 1

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Galactic events may not be all that different from the boiling of water. That's what SFU nuclear chemist Ralph Korteling and 17 other scientists are discovering in their investigation of nuclear matter.

They belong to Indiana Silicon Sphere (ISiS), a group of scientists that has made a major breakthrough in the study of nuclear matter.

The team proved its theory for the first time in practical experiments that nuclear matter undergoes a similar liquid to gas phase change as normal matter. For more than 20 years, nuclear scientists have sought to prove the theory.

The transition of hot atomic nuclei from liquid to gas is analogous to the boiling of water into steam.

Scientists have sought to confirm the parallel partially because they believe a gas to liquid transition occurs when neutron stars and black holes form.

Scientists theorize a build up of gravity in a massive star's core causes its gaseous nuclear matter to condense into a giant drop of nuclear liquid, or a neutron star. It is one of the densest forms of matter in the universe.

As a comparison, if the planet Earth were compressed to neutron star density it would fit into a football stadium.

“We've made a big step in our understanding of matter when we can show that nuclear systems with only about 200 particles governed by nuclear forces behave in the same way as normal matter involving billions and billions of particles and governed by atomic forces,” says Korteling.

The ISiS team's experiments were 10 to 12 years in the making. The team, along with other scientists, will now spend several years studying the data it has generated.

The ISiS study has been published in the international peer-reviewed publications The Physical Review and Physical Review Letters.

Read more online at Physics News Update.

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