Nuclear structure and reactions: theory and experiment

Lead Research Organisation: University of Surrey
Department Name: Nuclear and Radiation Physics


Nuclear physics research is at the dawn of a new era. For almost a hundred years, atomic nuclei have been probed by collisions between stable beams and stable targets, with just a small number of radioactive isotopes being available. There has been steady progress over the past 20 years in the development of beams of radioactive isotopes. Now it is becoming possible to generate intense beams of a wide range of short-lived isotopes, so-called 'radioactive beams', and thus vastly to expand the scope of experimental nuclear research. For example, it is becoming possible to study in the laboratory a range of nuclear reactions that take place in exploding stars. Thereby, we will be able to understand how the chemical elements that we find on Earth were formed and distributed through the Universe. At the core of its experimental research, the Surrey group is participating strongly in the development of two European radioactive-beam facilities: FAIR at GSI, Darmstadt, Germany, and SPIRAL at GANIL, Caen, France. While we are contributing to substantial technical developments at these facilities, the present grant request is focused on the exploitation of the capabilities that are already becoming available. To achieve our physics objectives, we also need to use several different facilities, including stable-isotope accelerators, since these can provide complementary capabilities. Experimental progress is intimately linked with theory, where novel and practical approaches are a hallmark of the Surrey group. In the world-wide development of nuclear physics, there is a close connection between theory, experiment, and radiation detection techniques. A key feature of the Surrey group, unique within the UK, is our strength in all three of these areas. Our science goals are aligned with current STFC strategy for nuclear physics. We wish to understand the boundaries of nuclear existence, i.e. the limiting conditions that enable neutrons and protons to bind together to form nuclei. Under such conditions, the nuclear system is in a delicate state and shows unusual phenomena. It is very sensitive to the properties of the nuclear force. For example, weakly bound neutrons can orbit their parent nucleus at remarkably large distances. This is already known, and the Surrey group made key contributions to this knowledge. What is unknown is whether, and to what extent, the neutrons and protons can show different collective behaviours. Also unknown, for most elements, is how many neutrons can bind to a given number of protons. We need a more sophisticated understanding of the nuclear force, and this needs experimental information about these delicate nuclei to test our theoretical ideas and models. We also need better radiation detectors (more sensitive and more efficient) to make best use of the new radioactive beams. Therefore, theory, experiment, and detector developments go hand-in-hand as we push forward towards the nuclear limits. Our principal motivation is the basic science, and we contribute to the world sum of knowledge and understanding. Nevertheless, there are more-tangible benefits. For example, our radiation-detector advances are most likely to be incorporated in medical diagnosis and treatment. In addition, we provide an excellent training environment for our research students and staff, many of whom go on to work in the nuclear power and radiation protection industries, helping to fill the current skills gap. On a more adventurous note, our special interest in nuclear isomers (energy traps) could lead to novel energy applications. Furthermore, we have a keen interest in sharing our specialist knowledge with a wide audience, and we already have an enviable track record with the media.


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Al-Sulaiti H (2011) Determination of the natural radioactivity in Qatarian building materials using high-resolution gamma-ray spectrometry in Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research Section A: Accelerators, Spectrometers, Detectors and Associated Equipment

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Al-Sulaiti H (2010) A preliminary report on the determination of natural radioactivity levels of the State of Qatar using high-resolution gamma-ray spectrometry in Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research Section A: Accelerators, Spectrometers, Detectors and Associated Equipment

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Al-Sulaiti L (2010) Water equivalence of various materials for clinical proton dosimetry by experiment and Monte Carlo simulation in Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research Section A: Accelerators, Spectrometers, Detectors and Associated Equipment

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Algora A. (2009) Practical applications of the total absorption technique in REVISTA MEXICANA DE FISICA

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Description We have advanced the following areas: understanding the limits of the nuclear landscape, especially the neutron-rich limits; understanding and exploiting the reactions needed to reach the limits; studying and understanding novel structures observed on approaching the limits; engaging fully with the international community of nuclear physicists; disseminating results through leading journals and conferences; providing excellent training.
Exploitation Route The main beneficiaries of this work will be the national and international nuclear physics communities. In addition, the expected results on shell structure and isomeric states will also be of significant interest to the nuclear-astrophysics and isomer-application communities. We have an active involvement and information exchange with both these nuclear structure 'user' communities. The isomer work also links closely to the atomic physics community, in particular through the study of highly charged ions stored in rings and traps. Our theoretical methods will be of interest to the condensed-matter community, especially in relation to pairing condensates. The work on detector development has wide potential applications for medical diagnosis and treatment. The research will also provide manpower trained to a high level (PhDs and PDRAs with a deep understanding of radiation physics and sensor technologies) who may subsequently be employed in many different areas, such as national security, the nuclear power industries, environmental monitoring and control, and medical physics.
Sectors Education,Energy,Environment,Healthcare,Security and Diplomacy

Description No specific non-academic impact has yet become material.
Description IKC Funding dependent on several activities including STFC project
Amount £350,901 (GBP)
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Department Ultraprecision and Structured Surfaces
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 11/2010 
End 01/2012
Title stitching software 
Description A new method of stitching interferometer data together in the presence of substantial lateral and rotational misalignments of the data-sets. This makes the invention uniquely applicable to on-machine metrology. The software can be provided to third parties in complied or encrypted form. 
IP Reference  
Protection Protection Not Required
Year Protection Granted
Licensed No
Impact A stitching solution amenable to use on non-precise positioning systems including polishing machines. Solves two critical metrology issues testing E-ELT segments.
Description AWE 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation Workshop Facilitator
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Scientific understanding

helps with future planning
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2008,2009,2010