Exotic Nuclei

We produce and study molecules containing rare and exotic nuclei for applications in fundamental symmetries, nuclear structure, nuclear astrophysics, and fundamental chemistry.

There are many unique reasons to study molecules with short-lived, radioactive nuclei.  To name just a few:

Despite the many applications, the experimental study of molecules with short-lived nuclei remains extremely limited.  The challenges stem from the fact that studying ever regular molecules with precision is difficult - even the "simplest" molecules have a surprisingly complex structure, many of interest are chemically unstable, and their spectra become rapidly more complicated as their temperature increases.  The steps needed to chemically synthesize, cool, and study molecules with high precision is challenging, even for species containing stable nuclei which can be purchased from chemical supply companies by the kilogram. 

We have adapted and extended our methods for synthesizing, cooling, and precisely studying polyatomic molecules to those containing radioactive nuclei.  This enables rapid, broadband, high precision, gas-phase spectroscopy starting with extremely small (few microgram) quantities of chemical precursors.

Radium-Containing Molecules

One of the most interesting radioactive species for molecular studies is radium.  It has a highly deformed nucleus with large amplification of the effects of fundamental symmetries, and makes laser-coolable polyatomic molecules which enables the application of advanced quantum control.  We currently create RaOH molecules in a cryogenic buffer gas cell by combining laser ablation of microgram-scale radium-226 samples with excited state chemistry by driving the radium 1S0-3P1 line.  We then perform spectroscopy on the resulting cold (4 K) molecules using laser-induced fluorescence.

Relevant publications:


Madison, Chandler, and Phelan preparing a radium sample for ablation.

Chandler installing a radium-containing buffer gas cell.

The "MiniFridge" apparatus.

Support and Acknowledgements

We are grateful to the National Science Foundation for supporting this work.

We are thankful for the significant help which we have received from the short-lived atoms and molecules (SLAM!) community.