Atomic nuclei are composed of nucleons, like protons and neutrons, held together by the strong nuclear force. This force enables the formation of bound states, but sometimes it falls slightly short when only two neutrons are involved.
This has intrigued atom physicists, leading them to wonder if four neutrons would be sufficient for a bound state. To explore this, researchers at Osaka Metropolitan University focused on the helium isotope 8He, which contains two protons and six neutrons, and investigated the potential enhanced correlations between the two neutron pairs comprising the additional four neutrons.
Their study, published in Physical Review C, involved extensive quantum mechanics calculations, revealing the existence of dineutron-dineutron clusters distributed around the 4He core. This arrangement sheds light on weakly bound nuclei, crucial for understanding four-neutron correlations.
Professor Wataru Horiuchi explained that such nuclei with an imbalance of protons and neutrons don't naturally exist on Earth but are likely abundant in cosmic environments, like stars, formed through nucleosynthesis. These findings deepen our understanding of neutron binding forms and the origins of elements around us.
Source: Osaka Metropolitan University