Physicists Discover New Uranium Isotope

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    • Physicists in Japan discovered a previously unknown isotope of uranium, with atomic number 92 and mass number 241, i.e Uranium-241 and its half-life, according to theoretical calculations, could be 40 minutes.

    What is Uranium?

    • Uranium is a naturally occurring chemical element with the symbol U and atomic number 92. It is a silvery-grey metal in the actinide series of the periodic table
    • Uranium has several isotopes, which are atoms that have the same number of protons but different numbers of neutrons like U-235 and U-238.
    • It is a heavy metal that is radioactive and found in small quantities in rocks and soils worldwide.
      • Atomic number = No. of Protons = No. of Electrons
      •  No. of Neutrons = Atomic mass- Atomic No. 

    Why does a new isotope matter?

    • It re-defines the boundaries of models that physicists use to design nuclear power plants and models of exploding stars.
    • It gives essential nuclear information to understand the synthesis of such heavy elements in explosive astronomical events.

    How was uranium-241 found?

    • The researchers accelerated uranium-238 nuclei into plutonium-198 nuclei at the KEK Isotope Separation System (KISS).
    • In a process called multinucleon transfer, the two isotopes exchanged protons and neutrons.
    • The resulting nuclear fragments contained different isotopes. This is how the researchers identified uranium-241 and measured the mass of its nucleus by using time-of-flight mass spectrometry.

    What are Magic numbers?

    • In nuclear physics, a magic number is a number of nucleons (either protons or neutrons, separately) such that they are arranged into complete shells within the atomic nucleus.
    •   As a result, atomic nuclei with a ‘magic’ number of protons or neutrons are much more stable than other nuclei
    • The heaviest known ‘magic’ nucleus is lead (82 protons)

     Source: TH