While reading about the island of stability of superheavy elements, experimental approaches and related difficulties, an idea has formed in my head. Since I cannot find considerations of such approach in literature or principal physical flaws in it, I’ve decided to ask here.
Disclaimer: Since I’m not a specialist in the field, it’s quite possible that I am simply missing some well known information.
So the question is: Can muons be used for creating new superheavy isotopes near the island of stability?
Some information about contemporary muon beam sources, .
Consider following variants:
- The process of muon capture by the nucleus (analog to electron capture, but with muon) becomes the main decay channel for muons in atoms with Z>20., . The resulting nucleus is typically excited to energies in the range of 10–20 MeV, because most of the mass energy of the bound muon (-100 MeV) is converted to the kinetic energy of the neutrino. Investigations of muon capture by the nucleus in different materials show, that the fraction of resulting isotopes, which lose excitation without neutron emission is of the order of percent to tens of percent, . This suggests that there is hope to use muon capture mechanism for adjusting proton/neutron ratio in desired direction for creating more stable superheavy isotopes. For example, starting from element 117 isotope 294Ts, we can “move” diagonally down-right on p-n diagram https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Island_of_stability#/media/File:Island_of_Stability_derived_from_Zagrebaev.svg
Although deexcitation without neutron emission seems unlikely for superheavy nuclei, one-neutron channel (which is the main de-excitation channel) although allows creation of new isotopes (for example 293Lv+µ->292Mc+n).
There are obvious problems: - We don’t know the fraction of neutron-less and single-neutron de-excitation for superheavy isotopes, in best case it will be some percent, and fission will severely decrease the number of surviving nuclei but with facilities like Superheavy Element Factory,  this might be feasible.
- How to force a single short-living atom to capture a muon. I don’t have expertise to tell if this is very hard or totally impossible for current technology level. But here we can, for example, align muon beam with ions of superheavy elements while they are flying from magnetic separator to detector. In this case, we don't have to hit a single atom in a medium, we have to force a highly ionized isotope to catch a charged muon on an orbital. And it can be in vacuum (though I know that current experiment is gas filled). This seems difficult, but not outright crazy.
- Yet another approach may be using of muonic hydrogen, deuterium and tritium or, maybe even muonic helium, instead of neutrons for irradiating targets and “jump” over short lifetime isotopes, like 258Fm ("fermium gap"). Like in Muon-catalyzed fusion, hydrogen isotope shielded with muon can be used instead of neutron https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muon-catalyzed_fusion For example we can move from long living 257Fm to long living 260Md by capturing a triton.
- I don’t know how feasible is this, but since using thermonuclear explosives was proposed as a way to “jump” Fermium gap...
- Maybe by synchronizing ion beam with muon beam, we can create by muon capture a beam of radioactive isotopes “on the fly”.
- I highly doubt if this is possible and intensity of the beam will drop by the orders anyway…
I've asked this question on ResearchGate some time ago, here is a link in case something will turn up there... https://www.researchgate.net/post/Can_muons_be_used_to_reach_the_island_of_stability_of_superheavy_elements
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