Exciting the Nucleus

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Science  05 May 2006:
Vol. 312, Issue 5774, pp. 661
DOI: 10.1126/science.312.5774.661a

Modern laser sources can generate sufficient intensity to induce nuclear reactions. However, the excitation mechanism is indirect: optical laser photons deliver energy to electrons, creating a plasma, and the electrons in turn heat the nuclei sufficiently to overcome the barrier to fission or fusion.

Calculations by Bürvenich et al. suggest a plausible approach for direct nuclear excitation, using current and future generations of high-power laser systems emitting at x-ray frequencies. If the nuclei are accelerated to high velocities, the resulting Doppler shift of the laser light in the nuclear reference frame brings the nuclear transitions into resonance with the photon frequencies. This technique would enable nuclear quantum optics studies—analogous to the richly developed field of coherent electronic excitation—and could afford higher precision in measurements of nuclear properties, as well as control and detection. — DV

Phys. Rev. Lett. 96, 142501 (2006).

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