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KVI - Center for Advanced Radiation TechnologyOnderzoek en onderwijsNuclear and Hadron PhysicsResearch


The chemical elements of the periodic table are the building blocks of matter and the basis of life itself. How did this variety of elements arise? What processes played a role here? Answering these questions is one of the central concerns of modern nuclear physics and astrophysics, and also one of the main areas of research in the new FAIR-project. We know that the chemical elements are formed through nuclear reactions inside stars and in stellar explosions. During this process, known as nucleosynthesis, a multitude of different types of nuclei, or isotopes, is formed. Most of these are unstable and decay into stable nuclei either directly or via several intermediate steps.
The elements up to iron are produced by fusion reactions inside stars. Beginning with the fusion of hydrogen into helium, larger and larger nuclei are formed. This process releases energy, which is the reason why the sun shines and provides us with heat. Fusion ceases with the element iron. This is because fusion into even larger nuclei would require energy input.

Nuclei heavier than iron are produced at the end of the lives of large stars - so-called red giants - and in violent explosions of stars. All the production paths that occur in such circumstances lead to stable heavy nuclei indirectly via intermediate radioactive nuclei. The diversity of matter on Earth - and thus our existence - is due to a multitude of radioactive nuclei and nuclear reactions that happened in intermediate steps during nucleosynthesis. To date, we have only a qualitative understanding of nucleosynthesis; the detailed processes are to a great extent still unknown. At the proposed new facility, scientists will be able to artificially produce the nuclei that occur as radioactive intermediate products in the formation of stable isotopes. The various processes involved in nucleosynthesis can thus be measured directly in the laboratory, and the intertwined paths of nucleosynthesis be traced. This will also permit a better understanding of the abundance of the elements in the universe. All of these nuclear and astrophysical aspects can be investigated in detail at the new FAIR facility within the NuSTAR project (Nuclear Structure, astrophysics and Reactions).
NuSTAR encompasses all experiments that will be benefiting from the unique possibilities opened up through the Super-FRS, which will deliver an unprecedented range of radioactive ion beams (RIBs). The experiments will exploit beams of different energies and characteristics at three branches; the high-energy branch utilizes the RIBs at relativistic energies (300-1500 MeV/u) as created in the production process, the low-energy branch aims at using beams in the range of 0-150 MeV/u whereas the ring branch will exploit cooled and stored beams in the storage ring NESR.
The nuclear structure programme at KVI concentrates on the ring branch of NuSTAR with the EXL and ELISe experiments.
Last modified:28 January 2014 12.05 p.m.