Nuclear Structure

The discovery of the nucleus in the center of the atom by Rutherford in 1911 laid the foundation of a new, modern research field: Nuclear Physics. Nuclear Physics has dominated modern science for several decades and continues to offer groundbreaking phenomena and novel aspects of the microcosmos.

A century later, Nuclear Physics is going through a second flourishing season. The technological evolution of the nuclear techniques is based on the development of unstable (radioactive) beams in large facilities. The radioactive beams (RIB) have broadly expanded the limits of the nuclear chart we can investigate and look for new phenomena at hard-to-reach corners. During the last 10-15 years, RIB stand at the forefront of nuclear science and provide the scientific means to discover new phenomena and nuclear properties, test theories and reach the extremes of nuclear matter.

At the same time, stable-beam facilities are upgraded and provide the instruments to search for the building blocks of our universe, investigate the birth of stars and galaxies and understand cosmic energy production, while playing an important role in educating the new generations of nuclear scientists.

At the center of all these research initiatives resides the effort to understand the behavior of the nuclear building blocks, i.e. the proton and neutron, at extreme states of matter. The valley of stability has attracted lots of attention in the past, but still provides a plethora of information, especially due to studies of proton-neutron interaction.

A very important tool in these scientific endeavors are the electromagnetic properties of nuclei, such as the magnetic dipole and the electric quadrupole moment. EM moments offer unique information on the shape, the excitation modes, the type of vibration or rotation, the collectivity or the competition between protons and neutrons in a nucleus. Both ground and excited states in nuclei may be studied in terms of their electromagnetic properties to obtain knowledge of the quantum wave functions.

A recent example of such studies is the measurement of the magnetic dipole moment in the neutron-rich aluminum isotopes (31-34Al). The aim of the experimental investigation was to approach the recently discovered “island of inversion” from the “east” of the nuclear chart. The analysis of the experimental data is on the way and the prelimary results shed light on the wavefunctions of the states in these isotopes that lie close to shell closure at N=20.

Associate Professor | Department of Physics | University of Athens

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