Scientists at the Department of Energy have made a groundbreaking discovery showing that neutrons are responsible for Plutonium’s lack of magnetism. This finding has provided an answer for all the questions that have been tormenting researchers for a long period of time in relation to the behavior of plutonium – a highly unstable chemical element.
Plutonium is very hard to study, especially since the substance is highly radioactive and special permissions are required in order for scientists to operate researches on it. Nevertheless, the team of experts from the Department of Energy has managed to obtain the approval of all national institutions after two years of anticipation.
They were, thus, able to conduct the first experiment on plutonium and to unravel the mystery behind its lacking magnetism. This chemical element, much like any other chemical substance, has an electronic cloud all around its nucleus.
The electronic cloud that surrounds the nucleus of the metal element contains a specific number of electrons. The magnetic field of a metal is usually determined by pairs of electrons, whose northern and southern poles get aligned when encountering a magnet.
Things are somewhat different in the case of plutonium, whose electrons are usually impaired and, for that matter, they often lack the magnetism they need to remain attached to magnets. In awe of the recent researches, scientists have discovered that the unpaired electron aligns the rest of the electrons in the cloud, rendering the magnetic field invalid.
The findings of the recent study have been identified with the help of the process called neutron scattering. This investigation technique is used in physics, physical chemistry, crystallography and other similar researches and it presupposes the scattering of neutrons through a given matter.
Marc Janoschek, the leader of the research, told the press that two particular behaviors of the platinum have been identified during the recent experiment. As a matter of fact, scientists were aware of the two tendencies of the plutonium, but hadn’t been able to confirm them until now because they lacked the necessary means of investigation.
According to Janoschek, the electrons surrounding the plutonium’s nucleus can one time arrange themselves around the ion; thus, producing magnetism. Other times, they delocalize themselves from the respective ion and they fail to produce the desired magnetism. This process is called quantum mechanical superposition, Janoschek concluded.
The findings were published in the journal Science Advances.
Image source: machineslikeus.com