October 2005

Argonne, Notre Dame launch nuclear theory initiative

By: William G. Gilroy

The Physics Division at Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Notre Dame’s Physics Department have begun a new collaborative research initiative which they hope will produce a new understanding of the nuclei present in the evolution of our galaxy.

Argonne National Laboratory

Titled “Advancing Nuclear Theory for a Rare Isotope Accelerator: Nuclear Structure and Reactions for Astrophysics,” the project will explore, and attempt to explain, the physics of rare nuclear isotopes and their role in astrophysical phenomena. Topics to be examined include: the reliability of type-I supernovae as “standard candles” to measure the scale of the universe; the sites of r-process element production, including both type-II supernovae and colliding neutron stars; and nuclear processes, such as the breakout from the CNO cycle in solar burning.

Argonne researchers and Notre Dame physicists Ani Aprahamian, Stefan Frauendorf and Michael Wiescher note that many of the nuclei that participate in the evolution of our galaxy have never been made on Earth, and theories to describe them are not yet quantitatively reliable. They feel that experimental and theoretical efforts in this direction represent great challenges and opportunities for nuclear science in coming years.

The new nuclear theory initiative seeks to provide the United States with a new generation of physicists who are equipped to examine these experimental and theoretical challenges. The first phase of the program will run for three years and will provide positions for two new postdoctoral fellows, one at Argonne and one at Notre Dame. This phase also will support graduate training with hands-on research, help sponsor symposia and workshops, and help to attract visiting scholars to Argonne and Notre Dame.

Organizers hope that the initiative will strengthen the skills and knowledge base of both the nuclear physics and astrophysics communities and expand interaction between them.

The nuclear theory groups at Argonne and Notre Dame have complementary expertise in nuclear astrophysics and nuclear structure. By bringing the groups together, the initiative strengthens the capacity for growth and productivity in nuclear astrophysics.

University’s Joint Institute for Nuclear Astrophysics (JINA)Both Argonne and Notre Dame are members of the University’s Joint Institute for Nuclear Astrophysics (JINA), a National Science Foundation Physics Frontier Center.

Notre Dame’s Physics Department has a rapidly growing graduate population, with 101 current students, including 22 studying nuclear physics under the direction of five faculty members.

The Physics Division at Argonne National Laboratory conducts basic research with a broad perspective in nuclear physics. The division is home to more than 60 researchers and 40 support staff and houses ATLAS, the Argonne Tandem Linear Accelerator System. ATLAS is a national user facility in nuclear physics and, as such, hosts nearly 300 users each year. Argonne is operated by the University of Chicago for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

Contact Ani Aprahamian at aapraham@nd.edu

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