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Thick-skinned lithium cores.

Thick-skinned lithium cores

A Japanese group working at the Lawrence Berkeley (Calif.) Laboratory has identified what appears to be a thick neutron skin, or "halo," around the three protons at the core of a neutron-rich lithium isotope. The Japanese researchers studied the disintegration of lithium-11, which contains seven more than the typical number of neutrons associated with lithium. Their observations, reported in the June 20 PHYSICAL REVIEW LETTERS, show that the two outer neutrons are only weakly bound to the rest of the nucleus. These neutrons interact strongly with each other, producing the effect of a skin or halo that may extend to several times the normal radius of the isotope's charged nuclear core.

"Because ... neutron-saturated nuclei are the closest one can get to having a neutron star in the laboratory, this unexpected finding is likely to influence predictions of the structure and properties of very neutron-rich objects," P.G. Hansen of the University of Aarhus in Denmakr comments in the July 21 NATURE. "Such nuclei will also give interesting insights into the structure of other loosely bound quantum systems." One example of such a system is a molecule made up of three helium atoms, which may be marginally stable at low temperatures, whereas pairs of helium atoms are unstable.
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Title Annotation:neutron research
Publication:Science News
Date:Aug 20, 1988
Words:210
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