In nuclear physics research one of the biggest quests is to find the heaviest element that can exist in nature. As discoveries of elements with proton-numbers 113, 115, 117 and 118 were accepted in 2016, researchers continue to chase heavier elements still. The isotopes of the superheavy elements are unstable and live for just fractions of seconds or a few seconds before typically decaying by emission of alpha particles or through fission. However, theoretical calculations predict that specific combinations of neutrons and protons may show a substantial increase in stability, i.e. that some superheavy nuclei have lifetimes of hours or years. These extra stable superheavy nuclei form the so called ‘Island of Stability’. Experiments probing the nuclear structure of the superheavy nuclei may lead us toward this long-sought island.
Scientists from the Lund Nuclear Structure group are distinguished in the research field of superheavy nuclei. With an experiment conducted in 2012, the group provided a first glimpse into the nuclear structure of isotopes with more than 107 protons. The fundamental experimental principle relies on the detection of the emitted radiation of the decaying superheavy nuclei with a top-notch detector set-up. The set-up is currently renewed as a result of a grant from ‘Knut & Alice Wallenbergs Stiftelse’. As part of this grant, my role as a PhD student in the Lund Nuclear Structure group involves the construction and characterisation of the detectors in the renewed set-up. But naturally, the principal objective of my PhD studies is to conduct new experiments on superheavy nuclei and move the research field closer to the ‘Island of Stability’. With granted new experimental beam time at the accelerator facility GSI, Darmstadt, Germany, and an improved set-up, we now aim to shed light on the nuclear structure of isotopes of element 114, named flerovium.
The importance of a successful experiment cannot be underestimated. This is not just from a personal perspective, but also from the perspective of the Lund Nuclear Structure group and the scientific community. Stepping from this argument, we strive to minimise all risks which possibly may contribute to an (partially) unsuccessful experiment. Reliable electronic modules in the data acquisition system are critical components and therefore I wrote and submitted an application to Fysiografiska Sällskapet i Lund, where we asked for money to upgrade this system. As of November 15, 2018, I got the news that the application was approved and we received the grant.