Hurrying a nuclear identity switch.
Tsutomu Ohtsuki of Tohoku University in Sendai and his colleagues recorded a nearly 1 percent hike in the decay rate of beryllium-7 atoms that were each trapped inside a spherical shell-like, 60-carbon molecule known as a buckminsterfullerene, or buckyball.
A beryllium-7 nucleus decays into a lithium-7 atom by absorbing an electron, which converts a proton into a neutron. Inside a buckyball, the cage's electron cloud may hem in the beryllium-7's electrons so tightly that the chance of an electron-proton interaction goes up, the scientists propose in the Sept. 10 Physical Review Letters.
Such a large boost is remarkable because conditions that influence matter on the scale of atoms or larger--such as pressure and the chemical environment--typically exert almost no influence at the smaller scale of nuclear matter.--P.W.
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|Article Type:||Brief Article|
|Date:||Oct 9, 2004|
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