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Supercomputer Calculates Possible Isotope Combinations

Oak Ridge National Laboratory and University of Tennessee researchers used the Jaguar supercomputer to calculate the number of isotopes that the laws of physics allow. They used six nuclear-interaction models and found about 7,000 possible combinations. Of these 7,000, scientists have observed or produced about 3,000. The other combinations are created in massive stars or in violent stellar explosions, say the researchers. In their calculations, they quantified the so-called drip lines—the maximum number of neutrons and protons the laws of physics allow in a nucleus—that determine nuclear existence. The drip lines become uncertain among heavier elements. The calculations for each possible nuclei require about two hours of supercomputer processing time and include about 250,000 possible nuclear configurations. The researchers say they could not have done this work two or three years ago because they wouldn’t have had access to such a powerful supercomputer. The researchers say their work will create numerous scientific insights and someday could yield benefits such as cancer treatments that irradiate malignant cells without damaging healthy ones. They published their research in the journal Nature. (EurekaAlert)(Oak Ridge National Laboratory)

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