A first glimpse at the world's most elusive isotope, Nitrogen - 9

The volatile particle only exists for a billionth of a second at a time before it combusts.

Joe Keeble
21st November 2023
A joint venture between American and Chinese scientists has resulted in the discovery of a new form of nitrogen with 9 nucleons.  

With seven protons and two neutrons, the forces that bind together this nucleus are incredibly weak compared to other nuclei. As a result of the particles lopsided makeup and the fact that the forces that bind the particle together aren’t strong enough to act over the range of 9 nucleons, researchers only observed this particle for 1 billionth of a nanosecond before it combusted.

Due to the iota of time that it existed for, scientists are currently debating whether to deem the isotope as a definitive particle. However, many currently believe that it still counts as a discovery of a new nitrogen isotope.

The implications for this developing branch of theoretical physics are extremely exciting, as current models do not have the sophistication to investigate and define more complex concepts, such as that of the nuclear system which binds Nitrogen - 9.

It was observed from the decay fragments of a larger system of particle collisions, and was deduced by this method rather than direct observation, although this is a common method in particle physics detection such as was the case for the Higgs boson.

Due to its relevance, it has vast implications for theoretical physics such as in the field quantum mechanics and also puts forth questions into how the existence of such a volatile and unique isotope came to be.

It also invites questions for quantum systems that interact openly, such as in quantum computing or in a biochemical system, as the production of this isotope could radically alter how they function e.g. the effects of nitrogen 9 production inside cells or small circuits.

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