Fusion of heavy nuclei involves a massive dynamical rearrangement of quantum systems with many degrees of freedom. Fusing nuclei, isolated from external environments, are proving to be a unique tool to probe the complex interactions of quantum systems. Fusion at energies below the fusion barrier occurs by quantum tunnelling, and is a very clean ways to investigate quantum tunnelling of composite, many-body objects. Recent experiments show that the measured tunnelling probabilities are much less than predicted. Initiated by our group at the ANU, efforts are underway to understand this in terms of the loss of quantum coherence as two nuclei merge together.
Projects may involve measurements of fusion probabilities in the tunnelling regime through measurement of heavy fusion products using a new 8 Tesla superconducting solenoid, or of fission, which provides a signature that fusion has occurred. Measurements of the reflected flux can also be made, to study mechanisms of energy energy dissipation. The experiments will use the 15 Million Volt electrostatic accelerator at the ANU, and the new highly efficient detectors developed by the group. The multi-parameter data will be analysed using software based on the CERN ROOT analysis package.
The student will have the opportunity to compare previous and the latest theoretical formalisms describing nuclear fusion, and participate in new model developments currently underway.