News FocusNuclear Physics

Accelerator Aims to Find the Source of All Elements

Science  22 Nov 2002:
Vol. 298, Issue 5598, pp. 1544-1547
DOI: 10.1126/science.298.5598.1544

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Nuclear physicists hope that an expensive atom smasher, an $840 million machine called the Rare Isotope Accelerator (RIA), will reveal the secrets of stellar alchemy, but first they have to secure funding. RIA will smash stable atoms into fragments, producing rare, unstable nuclei that play a brief but crucial role in the creation of heavy elements. By studying these unstable nuclei--analyzing their half-lives, their ability to capture neutrons, and other properties--scientists believe they will finally be able to figure out where all the heavy elements are born.