Groundbreaking Discovery: Lightest Isotope of Astatine Found

by François Dupont
1 comment
nuclear structure

In a remarkable breakthrough, scientists at the Accelerator Laboratory of the University of Jyväskylä in Finland have made an extraordinary discovery—an entirely new atomic nucleus named 190-Astatine. This newly found isotope, created through the fusion of 84Sr beam particles with silver target atoms, now holds the title of the lightest known form of the rare and rapidly decaying element astatine. Detecting the isotope amidst the fusion products was made possible by employing the detectors of the RITU recoil separator.

The discovery of 190-Astatine was made by Henna Kokkonen, a Master of Science graduate, as a significant part of her thesis work. This groundbreaking achievement provides invaluable insights into the structure of atomic nuclei and expands our understanding of the boundaries of known matter.

Within the Accelerator Laboratory of the University of Jyväskylä, Finland, an experiment successfully generated an entirely novel atomic nucleus referred to as 190-Astatine. This new isotope consists of 85 protons and 105 neutrons, rendering it the lightest form of astatine ever discovered.

Astatine, being an element that rapidly decays, is incredibly rare. It is estimated that there is no more than one tablespoon of astatine in the Earth’s crust. Through the fusion of 84Sr beam particles and silver target atoms, an experiment conducted at the Accelerator Laboratory of the University of Jyväskylä, Finland, successfully produced the previously unknown atomic nucleus, 190-Astatine. The detectors of the RITU recoil separator facilitated the identification of this novel isotope among the resulting products.

Doctoral Researcher Henna Kokkonen from the Department of Physics at the University of Jyväskylä emphasized the significance of studying new nuclei in order to comprehend atomic nucleus structure and the limits of our knowledge regarding matter.

The recent discovery was made by Henna Kokkonen, a Master of Science graduate, as part of her master’s thesis—an accomplishment seldom leading to the publication of findings in esteemed peer-reviewed journals such as Physical Review C, let alone reporting the discovery of a new isotope.

“In my thesis, I conducted an analysis of experimental data, among which the new isotope was uncovered. Throughout my thesis process and summer internships, I became acquainted with the work carried out by the Nuclear Spectroscopy group. I am now delighted to be working with the group as I pursue my PhD degree,” explained Henna Kokkonen.

Five years ago, Henna Kokkonen relocated from Juva, southeastern Finland, to Jyväskylä to pursue studies in physics. Now, as a Doctoral Researcher in the Accelerator Laboratory of the University of Jyväskylä, she continues her academic journey.

Reference: “Properties of the new α-decaying isotope 190At” by H. Kokkonen, K. Auranen, J. Uusitalo, S. Eeckhaudt, T. Grahn, P. T. Greenlees, P. Jones, R. Julin, S. Juutinen, M. Leino, A.-P. Leppänen, M. Nyman, J. Pakarinen, P. Rahkila, J. Sarén, C. Scholey, J. Sorri, and M. Venhart, 20 June 2023, Physical Review C.
DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevC.107.064312

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about atomic nuclei

What is the significance of the discovery of 190-Astatine?

The discovery of 190-Astatine is highly significant as it represents the lightest known isotope of the rare and rapidly decaying element, astatine. This breakthrough provides valuable insights into atomic nucleus structure and expands our understanding of the boundaries of known matter.

How was the new atomic nucleus, 190-Astatine, created?

The creation of 190-Astatine was made possible through the fusion of 84Sr beam particles with silver target atoms. This fusion process led to the formation of the novel isotope, which was subsequently identified using the detectors of the RITU recoil separator.

What is unique about astatine as an element?

Astatine is a rare and rapidly decaying element. It is estimated that there is no more than one tablespoon of astatine in the Earth’s crust. Due to its scarce nature, studying astatine and its isotopes is challenging but crucial for understanding atomic nuclei and the limits of known matter.

Who made the discovery of 190-Astatine?

The discovery of 190-Astatine was made by Henna Kokkonen, a Master of Science graduate, as part of her thesis work. Her achievement of uncovering this new atomic nucleus led to the publication of her findings in a peer-reviewed journal, Physical Review C.

What is the role of the Accelerator Laboratory of the University of Jyväskylä in this discovery?

The Accelerator Laboratory of the University of Jyväskylä in Finland served as the research facility where the experiments leading to the discovery of 190-Astatine were conducted. This laboratory provides the necessary infrastructure and equipment for conducting advanced research in the field of atomic nuclei.

More about atomic nuclei

  • University of Jyväskylä: Link
  • Accelerator Laboratory: Link
  • Physical Review C: Link
  • Master’s Thesis Guidelines: Link
  • Nuclear Spectroscopy Group: Link

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1 comment

PhysicsEnthusiast94 June 25, 2023 - 12:30 pm

wow, amazing discovery!! the new atomic nucleus 190-astatin is so cool! hats off to henna kokkonen for her hard work and impressive master’s thesis! this is definetly a scientific breaktrough we should be talking about.

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