DOE News
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    The DOE Science News Source is a Newswise initiative to promote research news from the Office of Science of the DOE to the public and news media.
    • 2018-06-05 14:05:05
    • Article ID: 695546

    Scientists Studying Nuclear Spin Make a Surprising Discovery

    The size of a nucleus appears to influence the direction of certain particles emitted from collisions with spinning protons.

    • Credit: Brookhaven National Laboratory

      When spin-aligned (polarized) protons collide with another beam of protons, particles called neutrons come out with a slight rightward preference. But when polarized protons collide with much larger gold nuclei, the neutrons’ directional preference becomes larger and switches to the left. These surprising results imply that the mechanisms producing particles along the proton projectile’s path may be very different in these two types of collisions.

    The Science

    In proton-proton smashups, more neutrons scatter to the right than the left relative to the proton spin direction. That was the accepted wisdom, and scientists thought the pattern would hold even when the protons struck larger nuclei. Painstaking new research shows that’s not the case. Scientists analyzed collisions of spinning protons with different-sized atomic nuclei at the PHENIX detector at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC). They found that increasing the size of the nucleus “target” caused neutrons scattering from these collisions to switch their directional “preference” from rightward to leftward. The results suggest that the mechanisms producing the scattered neutrons differ depending on the size of the target.

    The Impact

    Understanding how particles are produced in nuclear collisions could have big implications for interpreting other high-energy particle collisions. Information from these collisions offers insights into the nature of and forces governing matter, which builds the world around us, from tiny living cells to gigantic stars. Further, this new result adds to the puzzling story of what causes the change in scattering direction in the first place. These and other results from RHIC’s polarized proton collisions will eventually contribute to answering this question.

    Summary

    When RHIC physicists first collided spin-aligned protons with much larger gold nuclei in 2015, they expected to see neutrons emerging along the path of the proton projectile skewed slightly to the right as they had in earlier proton-proton collisions. But instead, they observed a much larger directional preference to the left instead of right. They undertook a painstaking review of their analysis and performed detector simulations to be sure they weren’t just seeing a detector artifact or an effect of the way the colliding beams were aligned. Then they worked with RHIC’s accelerator physicists to repeat the experiment under even more precisely controlled conditions and included measurements with intermediate-sized aluminum nuclei. These findings revealed that the neutrons’ directional preference was real and toward the right in proton-proton collisions, nearly zero (meaning no preference) in the proton-aluminum collisions, and very strong and leftward in the proton-gold smashups.

    To understand the findings, the scientists had to look more closely at the processes and forces affecting the scattering particles. Their analyses suggest that the very large positive electric charge on the gold nucleus, with 79 positively charged protons, results in strong electromagnetic interactions that play a much more important role in particle production than they do in the case when two small, equally charged protons collide. In those proton-proton collisions, the opposite directional preference is driven, instead, by interactions among the particles’ internal quarks and gluons, governed by the strong nuclear force. The scientists will continue to analyze their data from the 2015 experiments in different ways to see how the effect depends on other variables, such as the momentum of the particles in various directions. They’ll also look at how preferences of particles other than neutrons are affected and work with theorists to better understand their results and the origin of transverse spin asymmetries in proton-proton and proton-nucleus collisions.

    Funding

    This work was supported by the Department of Energy Office of Science and by all the agencies and organizationsExternal link supporting research at the PHENIX detector at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider. Significant contributions were made by scientists affiliated with Japan’s RIKEN laboratory.

    Publications

    C. Aidala, et al. (PHENIX Collaboration), “Nuclear dependence of the transverse-single-spin asymmetry for forward neutron production in polarized p + A collisions at √sNN=200 GeV.” Physical Review Letters 120, 022001 (2018). [DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.120.022001]

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    Climate Simulations Project Wetter, Windier Hurricanes

    New supercomputer simulations by climate scientists at the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have shown that climate change intensified the amount of rainfall in recent hurricanes such as Katrina, Irma, and Maria by 5 to 10 percent. They further found that if those hurricanes were to occur in a future world that is warmer than present, those storms would have even more rainfall and stronger winds.

    Tiny Titanium Barrier Halts Big Problem in Fuel-Producing Solar Cells

    New design coats molecular components and dramatically improves stability under tough, oxidizing conditions.

    X-Rays Show How Periods of Stress Changed an Ice Age Hyena to the Bone

    An international team has unearthed what life might have been like for a now-extinct subspecies of spotted hyena. They found that despite their massive size, some cave hyenas experienced times of hardship that affected them to the bone, causing areas of arrested growth that appear as dark lines, like rings on a tree trunk.

    Turning Wood Scraps into Tape

    A new chemical process converts a component of wasted wood pulp and other biomass into high-value pressure-sensitive adhesives.

    Very Heavy Elements Deliver More Electrons

    Scientists revise understanding of the limits of bonding for very electron-rich heavy elements.

    Detecting Light in a Different Dimension

    UPTON, NY--Scientists from the Center for Functional Nanomaterials (CFN)--a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science User Facility at Brookhaven National Laboratory--have dramatically improved the response of graphene to light through self-assembling wire-like nanostructures that conduct electricity.

    From the Cosmos to Fusion Plasmas, PPPL Presents Findings at Global APS Gathering

    Invited Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory talks at 60th American Physical Society-Department of Plasma Physics annual meeting.

    Scientists Bring Polymers Into Atomic-Scale Focus

    A Berkeley Lab-led research has adapted a powerful electron-based imaging technique to obtain a first-of-its-kind image of atomic-scale structure in a synthetic polymer. The research could ultimately inform polymer fabrication methods and lead to new designs for materials and devices that incorporate polymers.

    Probing Water's "No-Man's Land" Temperature Region

    Measuring the physical properties of water at previously unexplored temperatures offers insights into one of the world's essential liquids.

    Novel Soil Bacteria with Unusual Genes Synthesize Unique Antibiotic Precursors

    A large-scale soil project uncovered genetic information from bacteria with the capacity to make specialized molecules that could lead to new pharmaceuticals.


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    DOE issues call for HPC for Energy Innovation proposals

    The U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) High Performance Computing for Energy Innovation (HPC4EI) Initiative today issued its first joint solicitation for the High Performance Computing for Manufacturing Program (HPC4Mfg) and the High Performance Computing for Materials Program (HPC4Mtls).

    DOE funding advances project to turn captured CO2 into key chemicals

    The U.S. Department of Energy has selected Southern Research for an award of up to $1.5 million to advance technology for carbon dioxide utilization.

    Sierra Reaches Higher Altitudes, Takes Number Two Spot on List of Fastest Supercomputers

    Sierra, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's newest supercomputer, rose to second place on the list of the world's fastest computing systems, TOP500 List representatives announced Monday at the International Conference for High Performance Computing, Networking, Storage and Analysis conference (SC18) in Dallas.

    Green energy: Wind energy agreement will provide savings, 50 percent of electricity needs for Kansas State University Manhattan campus

    Kansas State University has signed an agreement with Westar Energy to provide approximately 50 percent of the energy needs for the university's main Manhattan campus from a wind farm in Nemaha County and save the university nearly $200,000 annually.

    INCITE grants awarded to 62 computational research projects

    The U.S. Department of Energy announced new projects for 2019 through its Innovative and Novel Computational Impact on Theory and Experiment (INCITE) program.

    Argonne's Raj Kettimuthu Named ACM Distinguished Member

    Argonne computer scientist Raj Kettimuthu recently was named a Distinguished Member of the Association for Computing Machinery for his development of tools to analyze and enhance end-to-end data transfer performance.

    Jefferson Lab-Affiliated Researchers Honored as APS Fellows

    The Department of Energy's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility now has a few more fellows on campus. The American Physical Society, a professional membership society that works on behalf of the physics community, recently announced its list of 2018 fellowships.

    Jefferson Lab Receives DOE Award for Energy Efficient Upgrade

    On Oct. 23, a team from the Department of Energy's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility was honored at the 2018 Federal Energy and Water Management Award Ceremony for upgrades made to the lab's data center, ultimately improving its energy efficiency.

    Free Science Events and Educational Opportunities Expected to Draw Thousands

    The Plasma Sciences Expo--planned as the biggest celebration of plasma physics in the country--presents teachers, students and the public with a free opportunity to explore what scientists call "the fourth state of matter."

    Triad National Security Takes the Helm at Los Alamos National Laboratory

    LOS ALAMOS, N.M., November 1, 2018 -- Los Alamos National Laboratory begins operations today under a new management and operating (M&O) contract between Triad National Security, LLC (Triad) and the U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). The NNSA awarded the M&O contract to Triad on June 8, 2018.


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    Tiny Titanium Barrier Halts Big Problem in Fuel-Producing Solar Cells

    New design coats molecular components and dramatically improves stability under tough, oxidizing conditions.

    Turning Wood Scraps into Tape

    A new chemical process converts a component of wasted wood pulp and other biomass into high-value pressure-sensitive adhesives.

    Very Heavy Elements Deliver More Electrons

    Scientists revise understanding of the limits of bonding for very electron-rich heavy elements.

    Probing Water's "No-Man's Land" Temperature Region

    Measuring the physical properties of water at previously unexplored temperatures offers insights into one of the world's essential liquids.

    Novel Soil Bacteria with Unusual Genes Synthesize Unique Antibiotic Precursors

    A large-scale soil project uncovered genetic information from bacteria with the capacity to make specialized molecules that could lead to new pharmaceuticals.

    Warmer Temperatures Lengthen Growing Season, Increase Plants' Vulnerability to Frost

    Experimental warming treatments show how peatland forests may respond to future environmental change.

    Rising Stars Seek to Learn from the Master: Mother Nature

    A trio of scientists was recognized for their early career successes in uncovering how microbes produce fuel, insights that could change our energy portfolio

    How Plant Cells Decide When to Make Oil

    Signaling mechanism details discovered, potentially leading to strategies to engineer plants that make more bio-oil.

    Cryocooler Cools an Accelerator Cavity

    Researchers demonstrated cryogen-free operation of a superconducting radio-frequency cavity that might ease barriers to its use in societal applications.

    Shining Light on the Separation of Rare Earth Metals

    New studies identify key molecular characteristics to potentially separate rare earth metals cleanly and efficiently with light.


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