PhD project: Origin of nature’s rarest stable isotope

Project description

180mTa is a unique isotope. It is the rarest stable isotope in our solar system and it is only stable in its isomeric state 180mTa (an isomeric state is a long lived excited nuclear state), while the ground state 180Ta has a half-life of only 8 hours. The question about the astrophysical origin of this peculiar nuclide is still open. One possible production mechanism of this isotope is neutron capture reactions on unstable 179Ta in low mass red giants. However, the amount produced in these reactions sensitively depends on the 179Ta neutron capture cross section, which is experimentally unknown. This project involves production of a radioactive 179Ta sample in collaboration with PSI (Switzerland) and the ILL research reactor (France), and subsequent measurement of the neutron capture cross section at stellar neutron energies.

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