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Laser Spectroscopy of Radioactive Isotopes

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, March 15, 2019
  • Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

Protons and neutrons are not elementary particles, and so the forces which hold them together in a nucleus are not fully understood. We would like to understand the features and properties of nuclei which result, and vary, often quite rapidly, across the nuclear chart. Stable nuclei are only a small fraction of the many nuclei currently known to exist, and to get a full picture we must produce and study those which only live for perhaps milliseconds or less.

This is only possible at international accelerator laboratories, where nuclei are produced in reactions using high energy beams. Electric and magnetic fields (and lasers) are then used to form the radioactive products into beams, filter them, and direct them along vacuum pipes to the experimental stations. At TRIUMF, Vancouver, high energy protons, at 500 MeV, produced from the world’s largest cyclotron are used to induce fission of uranium (and other reactions) to produce some of the most exotic isotopes. In Jyväskylä, Finland, thin foils of target material for the beams and supersonic gas jets are used to extract some of the shortest-lived nuclei more quickly. The facility we use depends on which nuclei we wish to study.

Laser spectroscopy is used to excite electrons between energy levels, and on the hyperfine level of resolution, the energy levels are split and shifted differently due to the properties of each nucleus. For example, the magnetic moment of the nucleus interacts with the magnetic field from the electrons (telling us the wave function of the nucleons) and the deformation interacts with the electronic field gradient (telling us the shape). At the same time we measure the spin of the nucleus. Meanwhile the electrons feel a different potential depending on the extended size, shape and diffuseness of the nucleus.

Some of the properties of nuclei we wish to investigate include the “magic numbers” of neutrons and protons, and how their proton (or neutron) numbers change away from the valley of stability when changing the neutron (or proton) number. What can a single proton away from a magic number tell us about interactions between protons and neutrons as neutrons are added? It is expected that the successful candidate will be based in Liverpool but travel to both the Vancouver and Jyväskylä facilities for experiments, to address these and other questions within the research programme.

Funding Notes

The project is funded jointly by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) UK, and by a School of Physical Sciences (University of Liverpool) Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) grant. The latter will require the student to undertake some teaching duties (such as helping out in some undergraduate laboratory or problem solving classes).


J. Phys. G: Nucl. Part. Phys. 37 (2010) 113101
J. Phys. G: Nucl. Part. Phys. 44 (2017) 064002
Physics Letters B 760 (2016) 387–392
Physical Review A 97, 042504 (2018)

Related Subjects

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