The secrets of exploding stars
Surrey’s Department of Physics wins £1.8m STFC research grant in order to explore nuclear structure and reactions.
Atomic nuclei have been explored and probed for over a hundred years and the scope of experimental nuclear research is ever-expanding, with scientists seeking to unearth new knowledge that explains how stars evolve.
Now, after a funding bid, led by Professor Phil Walker, the University of Surrey's Director of Research and Head of the Centre for Nuclear and Radiation Physics, £1.8 million has been awarded by the Science & Technology Facilities Council (STFC) to Surrey’s Department of Physics (together with the University of Brighton that received additional funding).
This financial support will see Surrey researchers examine, in laboratory experiments, a range of nuclear reactions that take place in exploding stars, enabling scientists to investigate how chemical elements found on Earth are formed and distributed throughout the Universe.
... so far, we’ve been able to apply our radiation-detector advances into medical diagnosis and treatment, and our research on nuclear isomers could lead to innovative energy applications
Professor Walker said, “The grant is really exciting as it will help us understand and push the boundaries of nuclear existence. What we know already about the subject is that weakly bound neutrons can orbit their parent nucleus at large distances. What we’ll be looking into with the funding is whether neutrons and protons have different collective behaviours and how many neutrons can bind to a given number of protons. Once we understand this, we’ll have more of an idea of how stars explode.
“The applications of our research are far-reaching: so far, we’ve been able to apply our radiation-detector advances into medical diagnosis and treatment, and our research on nuclear isomers could lead to innovative energy applications. Who knows what the future holds?”
Surrey’s physics experimental research is facilitated through strong participation at leading international radioactive beam facilities, and underpinned by world-renowned theorists based at the University. Why not find out more about the Department’s study areas, explore some of the programmes on offer and read about student experiences of the subject?