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Nuclei in their lowest energy states (ground state) are composed of neutrons and protons. Two protons and two neutrons in a nucleus can cluster together to form alpha particles. When the nucleus gets nearly enough energy to disintegrate into alpha particles, the alpha particles can arrange themselves in the lowest possible quantum energy level, forming a Bose-Einstein condensate. Examples are the ground state of beryllium-8 and the famous carbon-12 "Hoyle" state, named for Fred Hoyle who first postulated its existence to explain the production of carbon in stars. Could analogous states exist in other isotopes like oxygen-16 and neon-20? Nuclear researchers at Texas A&M University indicated a state analogous to the Hoyle state exists in oxygen-16.
The existence of the Hoyle state in carbon-12 is very important. In fact, it's thanks to this state that carbon-12, the key element for life as we know it, could be formed in the early universe. The carbon-12 Hoyle state also has peculiar characteristics. These features can be explained by describing carbon as a diluted gas of alpha particles, implying the existence of a new state of nuclear matter analogous to the well-known Bose-Einstein condensate for molecules. Finding states analogous to the carbon-12 Hoyle state in heavier nuclei will show that the Hoyle state is not a lucky occurrence in carbon-12. Rather, it's a state of nuclear matter that can be found in other nuclei under similar conditions.
Identification - Study - States - Hoyle - State
The identification and the study of states analogous to the Hoyle state in heavier nuclei can provide a test for the existence of alpha condensates in nuclear matter. At the Cyclotron Institute of Texas A&M University, researchers studied the reaction between neon-20 and alpha particles using a thick...
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