Featherweight Oxygen to Pave New Avenues for Nuclear Physics

Researchers have been emphasizing on nuclear symmetry as it is one of the most important parameters in nuclear physics. Working on the same phenomena, researchers in Washington University in St. Louis discovered a novel form of oxygen. This newly discovered element was termed as “featherweight oxygen” as it is the lightest version of oxygen. Oxygen-11 has only 3 neutrons to its protons and it deteriorates right after its formation.

Scientists to Compare Oxygen-11 to its Nuclear Mirror Lithium-11

Further, researchers learned that oxygen-11 is the nuclear mirror of lithium-11. It served as a major breakthrough in nuclear physics as it helps understanding the structure of matter. It is of prime importance to understand the structure of a nuclei to use nucleus as a research tool. Various nuclear symmetry tests can help in gaining insights on the structure of nuclei.

Nuclei are termed as mirrors when the neutron to proton ratio of one nuclei is the exact reverse of other. Tyler Webb, a Ph.D. candidate in physics in Arts & Sciences at Washington University said that they expect a symmetry to exist in case of mirror nuclei. Moreover, their properties should be alike. Quantum state of the mirror should be nearly close in energy relative to the nucleus’s ground state.

Lithium-11 has two loosely bound neutrons and oxygen 11 has two unbound protons. This symmetry will help scientists to learn about the nuclei by comparing the structure of mirror nuclei with its expected structure. Researchers collaborated with the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory to conduct further experiment on oxygen-11. This experiment will further help in analyzing the atomic structure and aid new discoveries in the realm of nuclear symmetry.