Whether scientists are willing to admit it or not, there’s still a lot more to learn about the atom itself. Absolutely everything around us is made of atoms. Each one of us is living proof that the Universe contains atoms, some more than others.
According to The Guardian, physicists are opening a new facility with the goal of creating isotopes, meaning unstable versions of atoms that were never recorded on Earth.
How did supernovae create chemical elements?
Finding isotopes to study them is indeed one very difficult task considering that they decay very fast.
Common sense tells us that explosions can’t possibly lead to order and creation. But it seems that in astronomy and chemistry, it is possible. That’s perhaps one of the reasons why astronomers are willing to find out more about how chemical elements came to life due to the furnaces from supernovae. For that, they’ll be relying on the isotopes mentioned.
Along with the future isotopes that will be created, physicists hope to learn more about how the ‘strong nuclear force’ works that keeps protons and neutrons together in the nucleus of an atom.
Prof Bradley Sherrill, who is the scientific director of the FRIB (Facility for Rare ISotope Beams) from Michigan State University, explained as The Guardian quotes:
There are 285 isotopes of elements that exist on Earth, but we think that there are potentially 10,000 isotopes for the elements up to uranium,
The goal of FRIB is to provide as wide of an access to this vast landscape of other isotopes as technology allows.
How will FRIB generate isotopes? By accelerating a beam of atomic nuclei at huge speeds (about half the speed of light). The next phase will be to send them shooting down a pipe of hundreds of meters. They will crash into a target, resulting in some atoms fragmenting into smaller protons and neutron combinations. Magnets will be further used to filter out the needed isotopes.
There’s even a chance that physicists will also be able to find out more about how human life began on Earth after studying rare isotopes.