A team of researchers including K. Blaum from the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics has determined the binding energy of atomic nuclei and thus the shell effect by measuring the mass of the superheavy artificial elements.
The heaviest element on earth is uranium, which has the atomic number 92 in the periodic table. Although superheavy elements up to number 118 have been produced artificially, their atomic nuclei rapidly decay. A subtle quantum effect means that even heavier atomic nuclei above element 120 could exist for years, however. Physicists have been searching for this hypothetical “island of stability” for a long time. An international team that includes Klaus Blaum’s group at the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg has now taken a further crucial step in the right direction. In a spectacular precision experiment at the GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research in Darmstadt, the cooperating team has been able to determine the strength of the shell stability in heavy nuclei with 152 neutrons for the first time. A breakthrough in the understanding of the physics of atomic nuclei.