photo: This photo shows an experiment at GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research in Darmstadt, Germany, where 105 liquid nitrogen-cooled gamma ray detectors observed new ‘doubly-magic’ tin atoms in a study reported in June 2012. The special atoms have magic numbers of 50 protons and 50 neutrons each, making them stable. CREDIT: Thomas Faestermann / TUM
Tin, a material whose name is sometimes synonymous with “dull,” has a secret side that’s extraordinary, physicists say.
Scientists have succeeded in creating a new type of tin atom with “magic” properties and in studying it in more detail than ever before.
The nuclei of normal tin atoms are made of 50 protons and 62 neutrons, creating a stable substance called tin-112 (or 112Sn, which is the chemical symbol for tin).
However, scientists can make a special version of tin with exactly 50 protons and 50 neutrons, creating a “doubly magic” atom with equal numbers of its nucleus’ ingredients. In the new study, physicists created this tin-100 and analyzed its decay to reveal some of its spectacular properties. The researchers, led by Christoph Hinke of Germany’s Technische Universität München, reported their findings in the June 21 issue of the journal Nature. [Tiny Grandeur: Stunning Photos of the Very Small]
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