Lab researchers Walid Younes and Daniel Gogny have co-authored a paper, "Nuclear scission and quantum localization," recently published in Physics Review Letters . The publication details a major physics result in a project funded by a $695,000 grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).
The world at a micro level is described by the field of quantum mechanics, a branch where microscopic particles are naturally correlated, regardless of how far apart they are. With this correlation in mind, how is it possible to divide a quantum system, composed of many such particles, into two separate systems? This is the fundamental question that the authors address in this paper as they worked to understand the phenomenon on nuclear fission within this quantum-mechanical picture.
Through their research, they have introduced a concept developed in molecular physics and quantum chemistry to localize electron orbitals in space. Younes and Gogny exploit this concept for the first time in nuclear physics to continuously follow the formation of pre-fragments within the fissioning nucleus, up to the point where each becomes a nucleus in its own right.
By tackling this question, the researchers have taken a large step closer to a predictive theory of fission, a goal which has eluded physicists since 1939. This theory has direct applications to the basic science of many-particle systems, the development of carbon-free energy and to national security.