There are intense international efforts in nuclear physics focussed on the study of exotic nuclei very from stability that are populated in large-scale (~$1bn) radioactive ion beam facilities. We are involved in an international collaboration that aims to take these extremely exotic nuclei and store them in relativistic synchrotrons where they circulate at MHz frequencies that are related to their mass to charge ratio. Knowing the charge, and through extremely precise measurements of the frequency, it is possible to measure the nuclear masses to a relative precision of 1 in 108. Thus, it is even possible to measure the mass of nuclear excited states and infer their energy from Einstein’s famous relation, E=mc2.
As part of an Australian-German collaboration, we are working with colleagues at the GSI laboratory in Darmstadt, on a range of storage ring experiments. As well as studies of nuclear structure and long-lived isomeric states in nuclei far from stability, the unique environment of an almost fully-stripped ion has important implications in studies at the atom-nuclear interface. For example, when many or all of the electrons are removed from an atom, certain nuclear decay processes such as electron capture or internal conversion can be retarded or forbidden. This is one of the only places in an earthbound laboratory where one can investigate essentially fully-stripped nuclei in the sorts of highly-charged environments that might be typical in explosive, astrophysical scenarios such as supernova or x-ray bursts.
A typical PhB or 3rd year project will involve computer-based analysis of existing data obtained at GSI, whereas honours and later year projects might involve collaboration in new experiments at GSI in Germany, and possibly, in the future, Lanzhou in China.