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A leading statistician from our department of Mathematical Sciences has collaborated with researchers from Tokyo Institute of Technology in Japan to achieve a major discovery in nuclear physics.

The research team has discovered a new isotope of Oxygen, known as 28O.

The discovery of 28O represents an extremely exciting advance and a core focus for future nuclear experiments and theoretical investigations.

First ever observation of 28O

28O is extremely exotic in nature as it has an extremely large neutron to proton ratio.

The 28O nucleus is of particular interest in nuclear physics, as with the proton number Z = 8 and neutron number N = 20 being both 'magic numbers', it is expected to be one of a relatively small number of so-called ‘doubly magic’ nuclei in the standard shell-model picture of nuclear structure.

The comparison between previously intractable theoretical predictions with 28O represents a major test of our fundamental understanding of the nuclear world and showed that 28O helps constrain many features of the underlying theory.

This discovery has been performed at a world leading nuclear physics beam factory in Japan.

Advanced Uncertainty Qualification (UQ) methods 

One of the most active areas of present-day nuclear physics is the investigation of rare isotopes such as 28O with large neutron/proton imbalances.

The most advanced ab initio theories used in nuclear physics are based on effective versions of quantum chromodynamics and are highly sophisticated, which take hundreds of hours on supercomputers to evaluate.

This makes them too slow to produce realistic predictions, hence inhibiting the core scientific process of comparing theory to experiment.

The team used the ground-breaking UQ methods (emulation and history matching) developed in our Mathematical Sciences department to demonstrate that the measurement of 28O properties can provide valuable constraints of such theoretical approaches and, most importantly, the particular nuclear interactions employed.

The use of advanced UQ methods allowed the research team to make realistic predictions of the properties of 28O, which were previously completely intractable and facilitated the core scientific process of comparing theoretical predictions with experimental results.

Find out more

  • Learn more about the work of Professor Ian Vernon.
  • Read the full paper published in Nature.
  • The team who supported with the theoretical predictions of this research: Gaute Hagen, Thomas Papenbrock and Zhonghao Sun at ORNL; Andreas Ekström, Christian Forssén and Weiguang Jiang at Chalmers University of Technology.
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