In a groundbreaking discovery, a team of physicists led by Yosuke Kondo at the Tokyo Institute of Technology in Japan has unveiled Oxygen-28, a newly identified isotope of oxygen. Oxygen-28 stands out for having the highest number of neutrons ever observed within an oxygen atom’s nucleus, making it the heaviest version of oxygen ever created. This revelation has ignited excitement within the scientific community, laying the foundation for future nuclear experiments and theoretical explorations.
The nucleus of an atom houses subatomic particles known as nucleons, consisting of protons and neutrons. While an element’s atomic number is determined by the count of protons it possesses, the neutron count can vary, leading to the creation of isotopes. In the case of oxygen, which typically has 8 protons, different isotopes can emerge based on the varying neutron numbers.
Previously, scientists had observed up to 18 neutrons in the isotope oxygen-26, which comprises 8 protons and 18 neutrons. However, the newly discovered Oxygen-28 nucleus holds great significance in nuclear physics. With a proton count (Z) of 8 and a neutron count (N) of 20, both considered “magic numbers” in nuclear physics, it is expected to be one of the relatively few “doubly magic” nuclei within the standard shell-model framework.
The exploration of Oxygen-28 has provided a pivotal test for our fundamental understanding of nuclear physics. This discovery has led to valuable insights into theoretical predictions, helping refine our comprehension of the nuclear world. The research was conducted at a leading nuclear physics beam factory in Japan, where a series of intricate steps involving calcium-48 isotopes and fluorine-29 culminated in the creation of Oxygen-28.
As we marvel at the air we breathe, composed primarily of the doubly magic Oxygen-16, the emergence of Oxygen-28 represents a significant stride in our exploration of the atomic world, highlighting the boundless wonders yet to be uncovered in the realm of science.